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    ISAS publishes a regular series of insights which reflect the perspectives and views of ISAS researchers and consultants on South Asia’s developments.​​


    Insights: Bangladesh: Growth at the Cost of the Environment?

    Amit Ranjan 8 August, 2019
    Bangladesh is moving ahead in terms of economic growth. It is being projected that with the current rate of growth, by 2030, Bangladeshis will be richer than the average Indian in terms of per capita income. However, the environment remains a concern for the country. Air pollution is high, waste generation is increasing, and most of the available water is polluted.

    Insights: India’s Tariffs and Implications for Indo-US Trade Prospects

    Amitendu Palit and Deeparghya Mukherjee 1 August, 2019
    This paper compares India’s tariffs with those of some of the world’s other large emerging market developing countries to ascertain if Indian tariffs are indeed among the highest. The countries include Russia, Brazil, Mexico, China, Indonesia and South Africa. Along with India, these countries are members of G20 – the world’s most influential grouping of major economies – and are large emerging market economies. Some of these, such as Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, continue to be beneficiaries of US GSP, while Mexico is part of the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) along with Canada. US perceptions regarding Indian tariffs are likely to be determined in relation to those in these economies, apart from China and Russia.

    Insights: Indian Start-ups Relocating to Singapore: Who Benefits?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 23 July, 2019
    A significant cohort of start-ups from India has relocated to Singapore and elsewhere. This has raised concerns in some quarters in India about the ‘loss’ of business and investment to overseas start-up hubs. Are these concerns valid? Who benefits when start-ups relocate?

    Insights: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in China: Bilateral, Regional and Global Implications

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 18 July, 2019
    Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina concluded a visit to China in the first week of July 2019. By all accounts, it was a successful visit. Bangladesh committed itself to the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as to the strategic partnership, at which level the Bangladesh-China relationship had been raised. The Chinese reciprocated with comparable assurances of support. At the same time, as a result of the visit, the need for Bangladesh to navigate carefully between the cooperation with China and the relations with India and the United States came into broader relief. This calls for skilful diplomacy in the times ahead.

    Insights: The Crisis in India’s Primary Education

    Dipinder S Randhawa 17 July, 2019
    Findings of the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report highlight the crisis confronting primary education in India. The poor results raise serious concerns about the preparedness of India’s youth for subsequent education and the workplace. Why are India’s children not learning despite spending years in school? What measures can be undertaken to address the huge learning gap?

    Insights: Vernacular Social Media and the 2019 General Elections

    John J Vater and Ronojoy Sen 16 July, 2019
    The use of social media by all political parties in the 2019 Indian general elections has had a transformative effect on political campaigning in India. However, much of the focus has been on English social media platforms. This paper traces the use of regional language social media networks by political parties and the circulation of fake news during the elections.

    Insights: Bitcoins and Fiat Currencies: India’s Concerns and Implications

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 6 July, 2019
    As most of the developed world embraces the idea of crypto assets and cryptocurrencies, emerging economies like India have been debating the path they should take to accommodate the newest advances in financial technology into the financial system. This paper attempts to analyse the bitcoin as the most popular cryptocurrency, its major features in comparison with fiat currencies, the stance of India thus far and the possible path ahead.

    Insights: Muslims and an Inclusive India under Modi 2.0

    Nazneen Mohsina, Mustafa Izzuddin, Tahira Namreen 5 July, 2019
    The landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s recent parliamentary elections and the re-election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister have, once again, cast a spotlight on the plight of Muslims in India. Although Muslim fears of a BJP-led government are not unfounded, Modi has been sending out positive signals in his outreach to them. However, Modi needs to match his rhetoric with action during his second term if he is to live up to his promise of building a strong and inclusive India.

    Insights: Lessons from the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday Tragedy

    Mustafa Izzuddin and Chulanee Attanayake 29 May, 2019
    The Easter Sunday tragedy in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019 brought with it important domestic and international lessons. There is also a China focus on developments in Sri Lanka, primarily because of Beijing’s geopolitical interest in the Indian Ocean. Countries in South Asia are also keeping a close watch as regional neighbours because of the resurgence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and, more importantly, a stronger and more united Sri Lanka bodes well for regional stability in the South Asian region.

    Insights: Universal Basic Income in India: The Rationale and Challenges

    Dipinder S Randhawa 28 May, 2019
    Interest in a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in India grew with the publication of a chapter in the 2016-17 Economic Survey. A UBI is increasingly deemed to mitigate the effects of endemic poverty, with the potential to facilitate economic mobility and, eventually, development. This paper considers the challenges a UBI scheme is likely to encounter in India.

    Insights: Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 28 May, 2019
    Over the past three decades, inequality has grown across the developed as well as the developing world. Today, it is widely acknowledged as one of the most serious problems facing the global economy. Bleak prospects for job creation, falling real wages and increasing automation are all indicative of diminishing prospects for economic mobility. The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is to provide an unconditional periodic grant to all citizens to enable them to lead sustainable lives, while providing them the freedom to make choices that help cope with growing uncertainties in labour markets. This is the first of two insights on this theme. The second focusses on prospects for a UBI in India.

    Insights: Environmental Degradation: Never an Election Issue in India

    Amit Ranjan 22 May, 2019
    As a result of environmental pollution, a large number of people die each year in India. In spite of that, environment-related issues and the impending threats due to environmental degradation hardly find any mention in major public discourses in the country. In the 2019 general elections, as in the case in the past, the political parties have provided space for environment-related issues in their manifestoes but almost none of their leaders have spoken about it in their election rallies. Beyond the political leaders, the environment also does not seem to be an important issue for the people and the media during the elections.

    Insights: Afghanistan’s Future: How can Pakistan help?

    Touqir Hussain 20 May, 2019
    This paper examines the prospects of peace and stability of Afghanistan after the expected withdrawal of foreign forces from an unsuccessful war lasting 18 years. In fact, Afghanistan’s troubles predate this war. For more than four decades, it has only seen strife and tension, while struggling with the building of modern political institutions and structure of governance reflecting its historical state and nation-building challenges. The Taliban were just one among many of these challenges the current war could not resolve. The United States (US) and the Taliban are now talking to end the war. However, for a lasting solution for Afghanistan, the countries in the region and the US have to remain committed for Afghanistan’s sake and for their own sake. Pakistan has a crucial role to play to put pressure on the Taliban to share power. It will not do so without a new relationship with Afghanistan that accommodates its security and strategic interests. And Washington must remain engaged with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should also develop some understanding with India, China and Russia. Without these arrangements, the Americans may leave but the conflict could continue with a different name.

    Insights: BJP Banking on Fortress Gujarat but Faces Challenge in Maharashtra

    Nalin Mehta 14 May, 2019
    The two western Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra together account for 74 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept all 26 Gujarat Lok Sabha seats in 2014. In 2019, Gujarat, the home ground of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP President, Amit Shah, remains a major prestige battle. The Congress is counting on making inroads into the state after doing well in the assembly elections in December 2017 but the BJP seems to have recovered some ground here since then. Maharashtra, with 48 Lok Sabha seats, sends the second-highest contingent of members of parliament to the Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh (UP). Like in UP, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is facing a tough battle in Maharashtra with a renewed Nationalist Congress Party leading the United Progressive Alliance’s charge. It has emerged as a major battleground in 2019 whose result could be decisive for government formation in Delhi. This paper summarises the political outlook in both these western Indian states and examines the key factors at play.

    Insights: India and the South Pacific

    Anil Wadhwa 29 April, 2019
    The issues faced by the Pacific Island States have consistently shaped India’s policy towards the region, which has been in the form of aid, grants, soft loans, and capacity building over the past decades, although at a modest level. This paper looks at the opportunities and challenges for India to deepen its engagement with the region.

    Insights: Decoding India’s Strategic Weapons Capabilities

    Yogesh Joshi 23 April, 2019
    India’s recent Anti-Satellite weapons (ASAT) test has extended its strategic deterrent into outer space. Built upon India’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program, an ASAT capability allows India to bridge the gap with China in the weaponisation of outer space but also makes New Delhi a major stakeholder in any future negotiations over arms control in outer space. This paper outlines India’s ASAT capabilities, underlines the similarities and differences between its BMD and ASAT program and highlights the changes in India’s approach to strategic weapons systems and what it means for India’s emergence as a great power.

    Insights: 560 : India’s Hindi Heartland Key to General Elections

    Nalin Mehta 11 April, 2019
    With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second term in India’s general elections, scheduled between April and May 2019, the outcome of the poll battle will depend a great deal on how 10 states in the country’s Hindi-speaking heartland in north and central India vote. Modi’s historic win in 2014 as the first leader in three decades to win a full majority in India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, was powered by unprecedented gains for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in these states. The BJP won over 84 per cent of seats in the Hindi heartland in that election. This paper summarises the political outlook of India’s Hindi heartland in 2019, examines key factors at play in each of its constituent states and puts together cumulative data from the various state-wise opinion polls and assembly elections to illustrate how the Indian political chessboard has shifted and the likely prospects as India heads into its national election.

    Insights: 559 : A Comprehensive Election Victory: What Next for the Maldivian Democratic Party?

    Amit Ranjan 10 April, 2019
    The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by the President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, swept to victory in the 6 April 2019 parliamentary elections. A majority representation in the Parliament will help the government take some important decisions which may re-shape the country’s domestic and foreign policies, and transform its debt-ridden economy. Some of these domestic and economic policies may redefine the MDP’s political relationships with its coalition partners, especially, the Jumhooree Party.

    Insights: 558 : Saudi Arabia’s Rising Profile in South Asia

    Omair Anas 9 April, 2019
    Saudi Arabia is faced with its most serious challenge, to transform and reconfigure an old, religiously legitimised, rent-dependent, and West-dependent for security, Kingdom into a diversified economy, popularly legitimized and sensitive to the decline of the West and the rise of the rest. This requires a multi-pronged strategy that includes rewriting its South Asian engagement beyond the issues of oil and expatriates. The Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s recent Asia visit aimed at securing greater security and economic partnership, an objective he cannot achieve without recognizing South Asia as being part of a post-American global system, defined by the SCO and the rise of the BRICS countries. The article explains the domestic and regional determinants of Saudi Arabia’s quest for a new South Asia Policy and the gradual rise of its South Asia profile.

    Insights: 557 : Elections in Andhra Pradesh – Issues and Possible Scenarios

    Ronojoy Sen, Amitendu Palit and Diego Maiorano 4 April, 2019
    Andhra Pradesh is one of two major India states where national and state elections will be held simultaneously on 11 April 2019. Past results seem to suggest that the voters tend to choose the same party in both national and state polls if they are held simultaneously. Opinion polls and ground level reports indicate that the opposition YSR Congress (YSRC) has the edge against the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Anti-incumbency and the inability of the current Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, to get a special package for Andhra Pradesh are some of the factors going against the TDP. A government of the YSRC will continue with the development of Amaravati, but could revisit some of the projects associated with it.

    Insights: 556 : Japan in the Infrastructure Sector of Northeast India

    Rupakjyoti Borah 29 March, 2019
    In the last couple of years, Japan has been investing in India’s north-eastern region in a big way. This paper analyses the growing cooperation between Japan and India in the infrastructure sector in Northeast India and the challenges which both the countries face in this arena.

    Insights: 555 : National Budget Sri Lanka: A Budget to Empower People

    Chulanee Attanayake 26 March, 2019
    Sri Lanka’s 2019 Budget is significant due to several reasons. Before it was presented, the Budget was predicted to be a populist one as 2019 is an election year. Surprisingly, the Finance Minister presented a budget which is balanced; i.e. which continues its liberal economic policies as well as demands of the public. This paper analyses some key features of Budget 2019.

    Insights: 554 : Sabarimala: Controversy over Women’s Access to the Temple

    Silvia Tieri and Emma J. Flatt 26 March, 2019
    In India, the two practices of menstrual taboo and gender-selective access to places of worship come together, as women are prevented from accessing certain shrines by virtue of the menstruating nature of their body. Recently the Supreme Court of India ordered the lifting of a legal ban, which prevented women of menstruating age from entering a famous Hindu temple. The Court’s judgement endorsed feminist activists’ claim that the ban is discriminatory against women, hence anti-constitutional. On the other hand, religious and political institutions and devotees (including women) maintain that the ban is a canonized religious custom, which must be observed out of respect for the religious sentiment of Hindus. The judgement divided public opinion and fuelled a wave of protests, often backed by opposition parties; it is also likely to have important consequences for the future of management of religious affairs in India.

    Insights: 553 : Reversing 1979: Gulf Reforms and South Asia

    C Raja Mohan and Nazneen Mohsina 25 March, 2019
    Recent reforms in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula have drawn worldwide interest. But South Asia has devoted little attention to the internal developments in the Peninsula that could have long term implications for the region. Given the historic dynamics between the subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula, this paper suggests that the potential evolution of the Arabian Peninsula towards political and religious moderation could help counter the many negative trends in South Asia. The paper reviews the past negative impact of the Arabian Peninsula’s developments on South Asia since the tumultuous events of 1979 and looks at the new promise of its reversal and its potential consequences for South Asia.

    Insights: 552 : India’s Race For The Security Council: Will She Reach The Finishing Line?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 20 March, 2019
    The essay focuses on India’s quest for a permanent seat in the Security Council. While analysing the debate and diplomacy in this connection, the essay is crafted around a recent book by an Indian diplomat, Dilip Sinha, entitled: Legitimacy of Power: The Permanence of Five in the Security Council.

    Insights: 551 : Attaining Entitlement: Women Farmers and Land Rights

    Vani Swarupa Murali and Emma J. Flatt 19 March, 2019
    From 29-30 November 2018, at the peak of the Rabi cropping season, tens of thousands of farmers from across India forewent their daily wages to take part in the Dilli Challo (On to Delhi) or Kisan Mukti (Farmer’s Liberation) march. This march, organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (umbrella body of farmers and agricultural workers) saw farmers pushing for two main bills to be passed – the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018 and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018.1 Within the march, largely unnoticed by the media, was a sizeable contingent of women farmers demanding the passing of a separate bill: the Women Farmers’ Entitlement Bill. Whilst they did not receive as much coverage as the men, this paper argues that the women’s fight warrants just as much attention as the men’s.

    Insights: 550 : Politicisation of Data Under the Modi Regime

    Diego Maiorano 18 March, 2019
    India has built, over the last few decades, a strong reputation regarding the credibility and availability of data. However, under the Modi regime, there have been several instances of data manipulation. This article shows how the government has been delaying, inflating and withholding access to public data. This could have severe repercussions in terms of India’s international reputation, democratic accountability and policy design.

    Insights: 549 : Why Alliances could matter in India’s General Election

    Ronojoy Sen 18 March, 2019
    In the run up to the Indian general election, scheduled to be held over April and May 2019, political parties are busy firming up alliances. Of the two national parties, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been much quicker off the blocks compared to the Indian National Congress. Part of the reason behind the BJP’s urgency is the expectation that it might not be able to get a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament). The Congress, in contrast, has been bogged down by seat sharing details. Alliances have been struck by regional parties in several states, too, with the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party tie-up in Uttar Pradesh being the most significant.

    Insights: 548 : Can Minimum Income Schemes and Loan Waivers help Farmers in India?

    Amitendu Palit and Vani Swarupa Murali 18 March, 2019
    The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme on 24 February 2019. Involving an expenditure of ₹750 billion (S$15 billion), the scheme would provide a minimum income of ₹6,000 (S$117) per year to around 120 million small and marginal farmers. The scheme has been criticized by many as a populist effort by the Modi government for securing the votes of farmers. As this paper argues, Indian political parties are shying away from implementing policies that could have helped in increasing farmer incomes. Efforts like amending state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts and encouraging large investments in food supply chains can help farmers in reaching wider markers and getting higher prices. Unfortunately, these are being avoided in favour of politically appealing, but economically suboptimal options, like loan waivers and minimum income.

    Insights: 547 : Understanding India’s reluctance at the WTO E-commerce Talks

    Dipinder S Randhawa 18 March, 2019
    On 25 January 2019, a group of 75 countries announced that they would launch informal discussions at the WTO to formulate trading norms and regulations for e-commerce trade. Despite its professed faith in multilateral discussions, why has India been reluctant to participate in a new round of discussions on e-commerce?

    Insights: 546 : A Dichotomy of Values in Foreign Policy

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 17 March, 2019
    This paper argues that while western and eastern notions of values in foreign policy might apparently differ, dichotomising relevant thoughts and policies into silos would be unrealistic. In a globalised world, borders between the two are tending to disappear. Today, while the natural predilection of a state actor in the global scene may be to try and shape its external environment in accordance with its own historical and cultural experiences, as well as precepts to advance its perceived interests, there would be restraints of various kinds, including size and capabilities.

    Insights: 545 : Parliamentary Elections and Challenges in the Maldives

    Amit Ranjan 17 March, 2019
    Favourable results in the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Maldives will allow President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government to take some strong measures to reinvigorate the country’s economy, which has been pushed into debt by former President Abdulla Yameen (2013-2018). Apart from the economy, the Yameen government had also neglected the country’s old allies by shifting the country’s foreign policy to favour new-found friends. This paper looks at the rift within the ruling coalition, and the present status of the Maldives’ economy and foreign policy.

    Insights: 544 : India and Peru FTA: Issues and Concerns

    Rahul Choudhury 17 March, 2019
    India and Peru met on 11 March 2019 to continue their ongoing negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) for goods and services. The proposed FTA will open avenues for India to penetrate into the Latin American market using Peru as a commercial base while Peru will have access to the Indian market, which has more than a billion potential consumers. This paper analyses the possible benefits for both economies arising from this agreement.

    Insights: 543 : Indian General Elections Announced

    Vinod Rai 13 March, 2019
    The election schedule to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha was announced on 10 March 2019. Indians will yet again go to the ballot box, to elect a new government. The entire mammoth exercise will be spread over seven phases with counting to be done on 23 May 2019. We analyse the thought process behind setting up a unitary body for the legislative bodies at the central and state levels, the use of the electronic voting machine, the efficacy of the model conduct and the attempt to have simultaneous elections in the states and the centre.

    Insights: 542 : India-Pakistan Standoff: What We Know, What We Do Not Know and What They Want Us to Know

    Iqbal Singh Sevea 12 March, 2019
    Both India and Pakistan have indulged in a media and information battle with government and military officials actively utilizing various forms of media – including newspapers, news channels, Twitter and Facebook – to put out their versions of what happened. In Pakistan, the military has also been able to control the information available to the public through censorship. In India, public opinion is being shaped, not just through the media, but also through electoral rallies. India is months away from a general election and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is keen to demonstrate that it is willing and able to take a strong stance against Pakistan. This paper analyzes what we know and still do not know about the strikes. It evaluates the claims being made by India and Pakistan. This paper shows that while official statements from India and Pakistan confirm that Indian planes bombed a site in or around Balakot, we do not yet know what these bombs struck. It is also shown that there are outstanding questions over the specifics of the subsequent Pakistani strikes. It remains to be determined what targets Pakistan struck and where exactly the subsequent aerial engagement between India and Pakistan took place. Intertwined in this is the issue of whether Pakistan deployed American made F-16 planes against India. If so, this may have violated the terms of purchase agreed upon between Pakistan and the US.

    Insights: 541 : Foreign Policy and Voting Pattern in India

    Amit Ranjan 8 March, 2019
    For almost all Indian voters, foreign policy is not an important determinant in the elections. However, the issues related to it do, to a certain extent, influence decisions of a number of voters. This is especially in the states which border one of the neighbouring countries. In some states, foreign policy-related issues have almost turned into a significant domestic issue which affect the day to day lives of people so it determines the voting behaviour of a large number of people living there. This paper looks at the impact of foreign policy-related issues on voters. It argues that such issues influence voters only when they take on a local angle and affect their lives.

    Insights: 540 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Andamans: India ends the Neglect of the Strategic Island Chain

    C Raja Mohan and Ankush Ajay Wagle 8 March, 2019
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first visit to the Andaman and Nicobar islands from 29 to 30 December 2018. Modi’s visit puts a spotlight on the belated development of the strategically important island territory. Since 2014, when the National Democratic Alliance government came into power, Delhi has made incremental advances in building infrastructure, strengthening connectivity, promoting trade and tourism and boosting the security presence on the island chain.

    Insights: 539 : The Maldives: Resolution of Constitutional Conundrum? Not Just Yet!

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 7 March, 2019
    For a tiny, picturesque and homogenous country, the Maldives has experienced volatile politics in modern times. It has had more constitutions than any other South Asian state, most of which have been tried and proven failed. All organs of governance – the executive, the parliament, the bureaucracy as well as the courts – have contributed to its tumultuous politics. Its strategic location in the Indian Ocean has attracted the attention of the main regional protagonists, India and China, which impacts on its domestic politics as its external shell of protection is weak. It is also susceptible to the vagaries of climate change, which calls for concerted and coherent policies that embattled governments are unable to provide. The presidential elections ushered change in 2018, and now parliamentary elections are due on 6 April 2019. A way out of political imbroglio is sought, but the possibility of success in this regard is small.

    Insights: 538 : Japan as the Chair of the G20 – Implications for South Asia

    Duvvuri Subbarao and Rupakjyoti Borah 7 March, 2019
    Japan has become the Chair of the G20 for 2019. The G20 has no permanent secretariat and has no specific mandate beyond discussing the most critical issues facing the global economy. As such, it has now become standard practice for the chair country to set the agenda for the year of its chairmanship. Japan has set an ambitious agenda, including free trade, infrastructure for development, climate change and the impact of ageing populations. The headway that Japan makes in securing global cooperation in addressing these compelling challenges will have profound implications for South Asia.

    Insights: 537 : India’s Economy – Concerns and the Road Ahead

    S Narayan 25 February, 2019
    The financial markets in India are under stress due to defaults in several companies and this is affecting the availability of credit for the goods and services sectors. Lenders have become risk averse. At the same time, consumption demand in small towns is growing. There are also new industries and technologies that are attracting investments, thereby providing a fillip to the India economy. However, the new government would have to meet the many challenges to put the economy back on an even keel.

    Insights: 536 : Does Pulwama jeopardise Pakistan’s potential IMF deal?

    Rani D Mullen and Duvvuri Subbarao 25 February, 2019
    Is it possible that Pakistan has scored an own-goal by allegedly sponsoring the 14 February 2019 terrorist attack on Indian security forces in Pulwama, Kashmir, which took 40 lives? Since the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammed has claimed responsibility for the attack, India has vowed to work on isolating Pakistan economically and diplomatically as a state sponsor of terrorism. This comes at a time when Pakistan is facing an external payments crisis, with only US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) in reserves – less than two months of import cover – and is in desperate need of a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yet, if India succeeds in convincing major shareholders of the IMF – the United States, the European countries, Japan and China – and international organisations like the terror financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, of Pakistan state’s involvement in these attacks, an IMF bailout of Pakistan, which looked like a distinct possibility just a couple of weeks ago after the meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, could be in jeopardy. Unless Pakistan takes significant steps to convince the G7 and other countries that it is serious about combatting home-grown terrorism, it risks going over the precipice.

    Insights: 535 : Zero Budget Natural Farming in Andhra Pradesh: Towards Sustainable and Profitable Farming

    Amitendu Palit, Sarin Paraparakath, Trishala Kaviti and Sriharsha Chilla 8 February, 2019
    Introduced a little more than three years ago, the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) programme in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has attracted considerable international attention. The ZBNF is a farming practice that avoids the use of external chemical inputs and relies on drawing inputs from nature itself. Implemented by the Rythu Sadhikara Samastha, a not-for-profit company of the government of Andhra Pradesh, the ZBNF has been adopted by more than 163,000 farmers in 9,722 villages across all 13 districts of the state. Initial results on the adoption of the ZBNF practices in the state are encouraging in terms of higher net incomes for farmers and greater crop yield. The key implementation challenge is to maintain the rate of progress on its wider adoption by encouraging farmers to switch from conventional chemical input-based farming to the ‘natural’ ZBNF practice.

    Insights: 534 : Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Re-Defining Identity

    Amit Ranjan 25 January, 2019
    The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is seen in Assam as against the letters and spirit of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The local population from the state and other parts of northeast India feel that, with this bill coming into effect, the region will be flooded with a large number of immigrants, which will dilute their culture and identity. On the other hand, the Union government of India argues that the persecuted religious minorities from the neighbouring countries have nowhere to go except India. It has also been clarified that those people can go to any state of India, and not only to Assam. However, given the history of immigration and tensions due to it, a section of Assamese and people from the neighbouring states are not convinced by this argument.

    Insights: 533 : The Indian Elections and the Rural Sector

    Diego Maiorano and Vani Swarupa Murali 19 January, 2019
    The increasing visibility of farmer distress towards the end of 2018 and the results from the recent state elections reveal the significance of the farmer vote. Looking at both the farmer protests and the caste protests, in relation to Prime Minister Modi’s promises, reveal the causes behind the recent farmer protests. A growing attempt to win over the farmers is predicted in the run up to the 2019 general election.

    Insights: 532 : Polls in Bangladesh: Implications for Future Theory and Practice of Electoral Politics

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 14 January, 2019
    The dust from the elections in Bangladesh of 30 December 2018 is yet to be settled. This paper analyses the lead-up to and the conduct of the polls, including the results and the implications. Yet, it is already apparent that these will not only have consequences for Bangladesh’s immediate and future civic evolution, but could also provide interesting theoretical inputs into the understanding of post-colonial political debate.


    Insights: 531 : The BJP’s Performance in the Hindi Belt

    Diego Maiorano 21 December, 2018
    The state election results in three states in North India should worry the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. An analysis of the vote share across the three states reveals that the party suffered substantial losses across constituencies and that it lost a substantial number of safe seats. Since it is crucial for the party to win a high number of seats in the Hindi heartland at the forthcoming national elections, the results suggest that the fight for 2019 is more open than previously thought, despite the fact that Narendra Modi’s party remain the frontrunner.

    Insights: 530 : Farm Distress in India – Causes and Possible Remedies

    S Narayan 20 December, 2018
    A farm loan waiver announced by several state governments is unlikely to solve the agrarian distress, caused by increasing costs and lower incomes. Crop specific and state-centred solutions need to be implemented.

    Insights: 529 : The End of Sri Lanka’s Political Crisis: What Next?

    Chulanee Attanayake and Roshni Kapur 19 December, 2018
    On 13 December 2018, the seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka ruled that President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve the parliament on 9 November 2018 is unconstitutional and that it cannot be dissolved until it completes four and a half years of its term. Following this landmark decision, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his post and Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated and sworn in as the legitimate Prime Minister. The 50-days of political crisis has seemingly come to an end. This paper examines the aftermath of the political crisis.

    Insights: 528 : Assembly Poll Result Boosts Congress and Stings BJP

    Ronojoy Sen 17 December, 2018
    The results of the Assembly elections in five Indian states - Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram – were announced on 11 December 2018. The Congress will form the government in the three Hindi heartland states – Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan – while two regional parties, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Mizo National Front (MNF), won resounding victories in Telangana and Mizoram respectively. The results were a blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was in power in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan, and a huge boost for the Congress. The BJP still remains the frontrunner to form the central government in 2019. The recent Assembly elections have, however, given the opposition significant momentum and made the BJP’s task that much more difficult in the 2019 general elections.

    Insights: 527 : RiseUpSL: The Role of Social Media and Citizen Engagement in Sri Lanka’s Political Crisis

    Anuradha Rao 13 December, 2018
    Sri Lanka is in the midst of an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis. The Supreme Court’s final verdict on the legality of the move to dissolve Parliament, expected on 13 December, and how parties respond to it, will have deep implications for the country’s democratic future. Meanwhile, an unexpected outcome of this crisis has been the equally unprecedented level of citizen engagement and civil society activism, fuelled to a large extent by social media. The ferocity and level of citizen engagement and critical discourse online and offline has taken political actors and observers by surprise, and has played a key role in shaping political discourse and collective actions. Although it is too soon to tell whether the citizen upsurge can effect real political change, its significant role in upholding democratic traditions at this critical juncture in Sri Lankan history must be acknowledged.

    Insights: 526 : The 2018 Political Crisis and Muslim Politics in Sri Lanka

    Andreas Johansson 13 December, 2018
    The Sri Lankan political crisis of 2018 kicked off with sitting President Maithripala Sirisena sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and replacing him with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The political culture of the country was paralyzed by Sirisena’s drastic move. The biggest Muslim political party, the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) sided with Wickramasinghe. One of the reasons for the siding with Wickramasinghe was out of fear that Rajapaksa’s return would bring back the anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. The SLMC also fears that Rajapaksa might once again bring in a Sinhala nationalistic agenda into political discourse. But the SLMC’s choice has consequences. SLMC leaders, along with other Muslim political leaders, are now forced to navigate different Muslim categories that they themselves have introduced when choosing political sides. Muslims in Sri Lanka are defined in different ways, including, for example, through linguistic belonging or belonging to a religious sect. In the last decades, however, the dominant definition among the Muslim political elite has been belonging to the religious community of Islam. Yet the new political conflict may revive an old definition of Muslims in Sri Lanka, based on the Tamil language, which they share with other religious groups. Thus, after years of Muslim political leaders trying to distance themselves from other Tamil-speaking groups (Hindus and Christians), Muslims once again might turn to a bigger Tamil alliance in their bid to balance the blossoming Sinhalese nationalistic tendency in the country.

    Insights: 525 : The Kartarpur Corridor: Symbolism, Politics and Impact on India-Pakistan Relations

    Iqbal Singh Sevea 11 December, 2018
    The construction of the Kartarpur Corridor has been widely hailed for the opening of a new chapter in India-Pakistan relations. Many hope that the goodwill generated by the corridor and the increased people-to-people contact it will generate could lead to better diplomatic relations between the two countries. Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has even suggested that the corridor could mark the first step towards greater economic ties between the two countries

    Insights: 524 : The United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy: Challenges for India and Japan

    Amitendu Palit and Shutaro Sano 4 December, 2018
    The Donald Trump administration in the United States (US) has expanded its articulation of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) region by announcing strategic investments and economic cooperation. India and Japan are fundamental to the realisation of the US vision of the region. For India and Japan, however, a deeper commitment to the US vision would depend on several factors. These include the prospects of the FOIP becoming a securityoriented strategy to counter China, as opposed to a regional connectivity programme; avoiding the legitimacy issues encountered by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); and acquiring an inclusive character.

    Insights: 523 : Sri Lanka’s Crisis: Conflicts of Class and Power

    S D Muni 26 November, 2018
    Sri Lanka is passing through an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis precipitated by President Maithripala Sirisena’s unexpected moves. At the core of this crisis are serious differences and conflicts between the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, rooted in ideological, governance and personality related issues. There does not appear to be any smooth political resolution of this crisis. Fresh elections promise a better way out but do not appear to be politically and constitutionally feasible at the moment. The Sri Lankan people and the international community can only hope to see a more purposeful and stable Sri Lanka emerging from this crisis.

    Insights: 522: State Polls in India: A Dress Rehearsal for the 2019 General Elections?

    Ronojoy Sen 20 November, 2018
    Five Indian states have their elections between 12 November and 7 December 2018. The results for all the states will be declared on 11 December 2018. The poll-bound states are Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in north and central India, Telangana in south India and Mizoram in the northeast. The elections in the three states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are particularly important since, in the 2014 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 61 out of the combined 65 parliamentary seats in these states. All three states will also largely see a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress. Hence, the results are likely to provide indicators for the results in the 2019 general elections. Opinion polls predict that the BJP will be voted out in Rajasthan while the contests in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are likely to be close, with the BJP having a slight edge. The election in Telangana could also prove to be tight with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi being challenged by an alliance of the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party. In Mizoram, the only northeastern state governed by the Congress, the regional Mizo National Front could be voted to power.

    Insights: 521 : China’s Digital Silk Road: Implications for India

    Deepakshi Rawat and Chan Jia Hao 18 November, 2018
    In building China’s technological capacities, the Chinese government has made long-term strategic plans to enhance China’s manufacturing and service industries, such as the ‘Made in China 2025 Plan’ and the ‘Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’. Building capacities in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, space and communication satellites, and 5G technologies have taken off as a result of these broad strategic plans. As the rest of South Asia integrates deeper with China’s digital economy, it will remain an imperative for India to remain a key player in the global and regional digital economy, evident through its integration with its neighbours in South Asia. This paper first discusses three core technologies used to propel the Digital Silk Road – Artificial Intelligence, Communication Satellites and 5G technologies. Thereafter, it discusses the possible implications for India in light of China’s increasing prominence in technology.

    Insights: 520 : The Rise of Barelvi Political Activism in Pakistan

    Iqbal Singh Sevea 13 October, 2018
    Pakistan is witnessing the rise of a new form of Barelvi political activism. The Barelvi school of thought is a Sunni reform movement that arose in the Indian city of Bareilly in the late 19th century. Its followers revere Prophet Muhammad and Sufis, and ascribe to Sufi shrine-based religious practices. The increasingly assertive political role that the Barelvis are poised to play in the political realm is reflected in the emergence of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as the fourth largest party in the recent elections. Post-elections, the TLP and other Barelvi organisations have heightened their efforts to influence the government through the use of social media, political pressure and mass protests.

    Insights: 519 : BIMSTEC: Relevance and Challenges

    Amitendu Palit, Rahul Choudhury and Silvia Tieri 10 October, 2018
    As a collective of countries around the Bay of Bengal rim, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is unique as a cross-regional grouping between South and Southeast Asia. India is the largest economy of the group, followed by Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. However, despite being in existence for two decades with a detailed work agenda for cooperation and political congeniality among members, BIMSTEC has hardly progressed. Hopes of the grouping picking up momentum have increased after its 4th Summit in Nepal on 30 and 31 August 2018 which resulted in important decisions like intra-member energy grid connectivity. Prospects of a BIMSTEC free trade agreement (FTA) also appear brighter.

    Insights: 518 : Presidential Elections in the Maldives: A Victory for the Joint Opposition

    Amit Ranjan 27 September, 2018
    The defeat of the incumbent, Abdulla Yaameen, in the Maldivian presidential elections on 23 September 2018 marks an important step towards restoring democratic rule in the country. However, President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will not find the going smooth. He has to prepare himself to deal with a number of challenges, both from within his party and from the coalition partners. However, he is likely to have better luck in his relations with the country’s two large neighbours – India and China.

    Insights: 517 : Digital Technologies Powering the Challenge of Financial Inclusion in India

    Duvvuri Subbarao 27 September, 2018
    India’s challenge of financial inclusion – giving every household in the country access to the formal financial sector – has been magically transformed by digital technologies which have exploded over the last five years. Millions of households not only have an active bank account but can hope to get cheap, efficient and user friendly access to a host of financial services – savings, remittance, credit and micro insurance. Even as the way India harnessed digital technologies to deepen financial inclusion is unique, there are many formidable challenges on the way forward. The ongoing Singapore-India cooperation in financial innovation can be a potential win-win opportunity for both countries to leverage the financial sector for real sector growth.

    Insights: 516 : Power Shift in Bhutan and its Implication for India

    Amit Ranjan 25 September, 2018
    On 15 September 2018, the party of the incumbent Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, thePeople’s Democratic Party, lost in the primary round of the elections in Bhutan. The finalround of elections between the top two polling parties, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and theDruk Phuensum Tshogpa, will be held on 18 October 2018 to determine the next governmentin the country. While Tobgay’s defeat came as a surprise to many outsiders, the Bhutanesewere not shocked by it, as anti-incumbency is generally a feature of the country’s elections.This paper examines Tobgay’s defeat and contends that this will not affect Bhutan’s relationswith India, which regards him as a friend.

    Insights: 515 : Michael Pompeo in Pakistan: A Resetting of Relations

    Nazneen Mohsina 10 September, 2018
    The United States (US) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, made his first official trip to Pakistan on 5 September 2018 to meet with its new Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and his team with the aim of resetting the increasingly bitter relationship between the two long-time security partners over Pakistan’s alleged failure to curb militancy; its ever-closer alliance with China, an emerging friendship with Iran and Russia; and the US’ growing strategic and economic ties with India. While neither of the two nations can afford a complete rupture in their relations, Afghanistan remains central to any improvement.

    Insights: 514 : The Performance of Religious Parties in Pakistan’s Elections

    Riaz Hassan and Faiza Saleem 10 September, 2018
    Devotion to Islam has historically not translated into significant political support for religious parties in Pakistan. The 2018 elections seem to have followed a similar trend. This time, however, the religious vote bank was bolstered by newly-formed parties which have found support in urban centres across the country.

    Insights: 513 : The Rapidly Evolving Situation in Afghanistan: Some Hope but Considerable Despair

    Shahid Javed Burki 10 September, 2018
    There is a combination of hope and despair about the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan. There is hope because of a fairly fundamental change in the thinking of the various countries that have interest in Afghanistan. Washington and Kabul need to rethink their approach towards the conflict. Both capitals must find a way of bringing Pakistan to their side. Perhaps the most important change is in the thinking about this 17-year conflict is in Washington. This is on the part of the military leaders in the United States whose thinking does not always match that of Donald Trump, the country’s president. This paper examines where the various players in the game stand

    Insights: 512 : Small States, Big States, Weak States, Strong States: Bangladesh’s Handling of India

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 5 September, 2018
    Although one of the world’s largest countries in terms of population, Bangladesh is much smaller in size and power in comparison to its neighbour, India. It is also ‘India-locked’, hemmed in geographically on three sides by its more powerful neighbour. It also owes its nascence as an independent sovereign state actor to India. Hence, it needs to be very nimble to be able to retain for itself sufficient space for manoeuvrability in policy formulation which is necessary to obtain its aspirations and objectives in foreign policy. This paper does not seek to provide any prescription for action. Rather, it tries to extrapolate a paradigm of behaviour in such a situation which could also be relevant to other smaller states in comparable milieu.

    Insights: 511 : India and the RCEP: High Costs of Disengagement

    Amitendu Palit 27 August, 2018
    The 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations are heading for a conclusion. However, doubts persist over India’s readiness to conclude the deal. This paper looks at India’s objections, particularly fears over Chinese imports, and argues these fears overlook its dependence on imports for domestic inefficiencies. It criticises paranoid Indian opinions on free trade agreements and the lack of attention on their economic benefits, primarily through more exports and foreign direct investments, larger share in global markets and higher gross domestic product growth. Arguing that the Indian world view on trade remains stuck in non-alignment, the paper cautions about the high economic and strategic costs that India might have to pay if it disengages from the RCEP.

    Insights: 510 : India-ASEAN Air Connectivity: Prospects for Growing Trade and Tourism

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 27 August, 2018
    Connectivity infrastructure has been crucial to enhancing trade and economic relations across countries in the world. Over the two decades, economic relations between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-member states have grown considerably due, in large part, to improved land and sea connectivity. In recent times, both Indian and ASEAN leaders have been stressing on the need to improve aviation connectivity among their countries. This paper analyses passenger and freight traffic between India and ASEAN through ASEAN airlines using data from the Directorate of Civil Aviation in India. The observations and other evidence are used to reflect on the current stress on building air connectivity between India and the ASEAN-member countries, the impending implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and in facilitating tourism, trade and commerce through aviation.

    Insights: 509 : Donald Trump’s Unilateral Tariff Imposition: Damage to the World Trading Order

    Shahid Javed Burki 27 August, 2018
    Much of the discussion on the several steps taken by the President of the United States (US), Donald Trump, in the area of international commerce has focused on the unilateral moves on tariffs imposed by the US as an instrument of diplomacy. The American leader is determined to go alone, convinced that the deals made bilaterally are advantageous for a country such as his that outmatches any other in terms of its economic and military strength. This way of proceeding is weakening the international economic, financial and trade order the US was deeply involved in creating. This paper suggests that all the world nations, including South Asia, should draw up a plan of action to save the world order from the assault by the US.

    Insights: 508 : Building a Digital Bridge: New Frontiers in India-Singapore Connectivity

    R Shashank Reddy 15 August, 2018
    Digital connectivity is becoming an increasingly important tool of diplomacy, driven mainly by significant Chinese investments, especially in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. In the 21st century, digital connectivity will have as significant a geo-political impact as physical connectivity. Increased Chinese presence in the digital markets of ASEAN, therefore, has led to unease amongst the countries of this region. Given India’s rapidly expanding and maturing digital sector, coupled with the presence of indigenously developed digital products that could have relevance in the countries of ASEAN, India could act as a direct competitor to China in this region. Singapore, which is home to a number of India-facing digital companies, and is at the heart of the ASEAN economy, could act as a conduit for greater India-ASEAN digital cooperation. To ensure this, however, India must act on two fronts. Externally, India should be more ambitious and driven in exporting its technology and digital products to the rest of the world, and should improve its overseas project delivery capacities. Internally, India should ensure that its digital markets remain free and open, with clear, well-thought out policies, and should not fall into the temptation of having data localisation requirements.

    Insights: 507 : Japan in Northeast India: Raising the Stakes

    Rupakjyoti Borah 14 August, 2018
    One of the important facets of Japan’s growing ties with India is its involvement in India’s Northeastern region. Apart from the connectivity factor, Northeast India is key for both Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy and India’s ‘Act-East’ policy. Given Northeast India’s physical proximity to Southeast Asia (a region where Japan has a huge economic stake), its importance in India’s bilateral ties with Japan is only set to grow in the immediate future.

    Insights: 506 : Mauritius-India Relationship: A Fine Balancing Act

    Jivanta Schoettli 13 August, 2018
    Mauritius has a deep and special relationship with India, resting upon historical migrations, religious affinity and close defence relations. At more than 60 per cent of the population, Indo-Mauritians are the politically dominant ethnic group. On 28 July 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping stopped in Mauritius, the second visit by a Chinese president to the Indian Ocean island nation in less than 10 years. India has been, and continues to be, the country’s de facto security guarantor. However, preserving its influence will require a fine balancing act.

    Insights: 505 : Imran Khan’s New Pakistan: Meeting the Challenges of Governance

    Shahid Javed Burki 10 August, 2018
    The author, using his many years of experience working in the countries around the globe, suggests that the new administration in Islamabad should not panic into taking economic actions not warranted by the situation the country faces. The doom and gloom talk in the press, both inside and outside the country, could result in the government taking actions that would do long-term damage to the economy. He argues against rushing into the arms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as that would result in imposing conditions that would squeeze growth out of the economy. The gross domestic product is growing at the healthy rate of 5.8 per cent this financial year and net foreign reserves of US$9 billion (S$12.3 billion) can finance two months of imports. This is below the three-month criterion of good health used by the IMF but not by such a large amount to induce panic. Instead of moving in haste, the country should make an intelligent use of the resources flowing in from China as a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor investment programme. Rather than panicking into taking hasty actions, the new rulers should prepare for a better future.

    Insights: 504 : An Analysis of the Social Composition of the Indian Parliament

    Ronojoy Sen and Taisha Grace Antony 7 August, 2018
    This paper explores the changing social composition of India’s Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) beginning from its first term in 1952 until the current or 16th Lok Sabha, which began its term in 2014. The paper looks at five distinct social characteristics of the members of parliament – age, occupation, education, caste and gender – and links transformations over time in these variables to the performance of the parliament and the larger narrative of its dysfunctionality.

    Insights: 503 : The Presidential Elections in the Maldives: The Incumbent versus a United Opposition

    Amit Ranjan 31 July, 2018
    In the presidential elections in Maldives in September 2018, there is a direct contest between the incumbent, Abdulla Yameen, and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih from the Maldivian Democratic Party. Since Yameen became the President of Maldives in 2013, the country has witnessed a series of clampdowns on political dissidents. Even some of his own party’s lawmakers, who have dared to take a different position, have not been spared by Yameen’s government. In the forthcoming elections, the significant issues are radical Islam versus a liberal order, restitution of democratic and political rights versus status quo, foreign businesses and investments in Maldives, and interference of foreign powers in the internal affairs of the country.

    Insights: 502 : Indian Agriculture: Technological Innovations and New Investment Opportunities

    Ashok Gulati 20 July, 2018
    With a population of 1.32 billion, where an average household spends 45 per cent of its expenditure on food (NSSO, 2011) and where the gross domestic product is growing between seven to eight percent per annum, India offers a big investment opportunity in its food-feedfibre value chains. Innovations all along the agri-value chains – from seeds of crops to sexing technologies in the dairy sector, from the ‘ uberisation of farm machinery’ to microirrigation through mobile solar pumps, and from solar-powered cold storages to processing, packaging, and retailing through e-commerce – are some of the emerging investment opportunities that can be game changers in the Indian agricultural sector.

    Insights: 501 : Pakistan and the Financial Action Task Force

    Shahid Javed Burki 18 July, 2018
    Established in 1989, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has developed detailed criteria to assess the performance of all countries and jurisdictions in managing their financial dealings with the world outside their borders. Based on its criteria, the FATF made public ‘grey’ or ‘black’ lists, identifying those that did not meet its criteria. Pakistan, for a variety of reasons, was one of the targeted countries. In June 2018, it avoided being put on the ‘black’ list by agreeing to a 26-point action plan formulated by the government in place for an interim period to manage the general elections scheduled for 25 July 2018. This paper will elaborate how political considerations have seeped into the FATF’s decision-making process and its mode of operation. It then goes on to discuss the impact this decision will have on Pakistan’s economic future.

    Insights: 500 : Nepali Prime Minister’s Visit to China: Pushing Ahead with the 2016 Agreements

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 13 July, 2018
    Nepali Prime Minister K P Oli travelled to China in June 2018 to primarily revisit and reemphasise the implementation of the agreements concluded by Nepal and China during his first visit to China as Nepal’s prime minister in 2016. However, recent issues of political uncertainties in Nepal have resulted in the Chinese adopting a cautious approach towards the South Asian country. As such, Oli’s visit did not yield any significant breakthrough between the two countries.

    Insights: 499 : South Asia and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges of Implementation

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 10 July, 2018
    With the seeming withdrawal of the United States and much of the West from the global scene, the role of Asia is unquestionably on the rise. Within Asia, South Asia constitutes an important ‘sub-system’, both in terms of policy and analysis. Its own contribution in this regard will largely depend on how it is able to surmount its current developmental challenges and infrastructural gaps. This would depend on the capacity of the region to implement the goals and targets contained in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This paper attempts to examine the constraints and possibilities in this regard

    Insights: 498 : Moving Forward: Bilateral Exchanges on E-governance between Singapore and India

    Chan Jia Hao 25 June, 2018
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Singapore from 31 May to 2 June 2018 saw India and Singapore signing various business and skills-related memoranda of understanding (MoUs). What was less focused on, but increasingly relevant, appears to be India’s union-level endorsement of a MoU between India and Singapore on cooperation in the field of personnel management and public administration. As both countries increasingly focus on the development of a digital-driven society and economy through the centralisation, exchange and analysis of data, this paper discusses the two governments’ strength in digital public service delivery and management for future exchange gains under Singapore-India bilateral relations.

    Insights: 497 : Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to West Bengal: Much Ado about Nothing

    Amit Ranjan 25 June, 2018
    During her two-day visit to the Indian State of West Bengal in late May 2018, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, discussed several issues with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. However, little headway was made on the Rohingya issue. Also, the contentious issue of the sharing of Teesta river waters between India and Bangladesh remained unresolved. Similarly, the consequences of the publication of the final list of the updated National Register of Citizenship did not find its way onto the agenda during the visit.

    Insights: 496 : Central Asia and ASEAN: Perspectives for Interaction in Implementing the Belt and Road Initiative

    Usen Suleimen 19 June, 2018
    One of the trends in modern international relations is the rapid shift from the political strata to more economic dimensions. This is evident in the actions of world powers in their race for economic development through the improvement of integration processes, creation of regional trade and economic platforms as well as trade routes. In this regard, the shift by developing countries towards realising the goals of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be characterised as a process dictated by the order of the day. Currently, more than 90 per cent of the freight traffic between Asia and Europe is via maritime routes. However, in the medium term, a certain share of this impressive volume of goods will be transported via land routes. This will increase the transit and transport potential of Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan, which could play a significant role in this new scenario. Moreover, given the modern geopolitical realities, Central Asia could become an important transit corridor between Europe and China.

    Insights: 495 : India and Indonesia: Constructing a Maritime Partnership

    C Raja Mohan and Ankush Ajay Wagle 14 June, 2018
    The comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Indonesia, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo during the former’s visit to Jakarta at the end of May 2018, is to be built around annual summit meetings between the leaders of the two nations, sustained high-level bureaucratic exchanges, substantive defence cooperation, including on arms production, stronger counter-terror collaboration, deeper economic integration and more expansive people-to-people relations. What stands out in this sweeping agenda is the maritime dimension. The joint maritime vision for the Indo-Pacific unveiled by the two leaders rests on the long-delayed recognition that the two nations share a vast oceanic neighbourhood. This has acquired an urgency thanks to the power shift in the waters of Asia marked by the rise of China and its deteriorating ties with the United States, and the sharpening of Beijing’s territorial disputes with its neighbours.

    Insights: 494 : The NSE-SGX Impasse and the Path Ahead

    Dipinder S Randhawa 7 June, 2018
    India’s National Stock Exchange’s (NSE) concerns over migration of trading in Nifty 50 futures to Singapore resulted in a series of actions by the NSE and the Singapore Exchange (SGX), culminating in suspension of trading rights for the Nifty 50 futures on the SGX, a court action and an eventual referral to arbitration. The arbitration award is to be announced on 16 June 2018. The SGX and the NSE have a mutually beneficial relationship that has lasted decades. There is too much at stake to allow the current disagreement to hamper a partnership that holds considerable promise for the future.

    Insights: 493 : ASEAN-India Cooperation in Information and Communications Technology

    Chan Jia Hao 24 May, 2018
    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Singapore from 31 May to 2 June 2018 to participate in the annual Shangri-La Dialogue. While international relations and security remain important foreign policy imperatives for India, Modi is also keen to enhance economic cooperation with Singapore and the Southeast Asian region. One sector of particular interest to the Indian prime minister is digital connectivity. The ‘Digital India’ programme has been successfully incorporated in several of India’s economic initiatives. Digital connectivity has also become a serious agenda in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India relations in recent times. This paper discusses the latest digital developments and collaborations between India and ASEAN, with particular references to the Smart Cities. It concludes by outlining the limitations that both sides need to address in this sector.

    Insights: 492 : Nepal, India and China: A Trilateral Equation

    Ankush Ajay Wagle 22 May, 2018
    Nepal’s new Prime Minister K P Oli made his first foreign visit to India from 6 to 8 April 2018 after his party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) [CPM(UML)], won a watershed national election in December 2017. This was closely followed by the visit of Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradip Gyawali to China from 16 to 21 April 2018 and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal from 11 to 12 May 2018. These visits are notable as they come amidst a growing consensus among analysts that Nepal would tilt towards China as a strategic partner after the ‘pro-Chinese’ CPM-UML’s victory, and, consequently, lead to a chill in Indo-Nepalese ties. This paper seeks to contextualise the visits against the larger picture of factors which underpin the India-China-Nepal triangular relationship.

    Insights: 491 : America’s Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal: Implications for India

    Jivanta Schoettli 21 May, 2018
    On 8 May 2018, United States (US) President Donald Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Lambasting the agreement for being “defective at its core”,1 Trump set in motion procedures to re-instate strict sanctions on Tehran. The remaining signatories of the agreement are busy trying to salvage the deal. America’s unilateral decision has implications for India’s geo-political interests in Iran and beyond.

    Insights: 490 : India’s Skills Challenge: First Principles, Priorities and Responses

    K P Krishnan 2 May, 2018
    This paper highlights some of the key issues that the Indian Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship is grappling with in the country, and outlines how the ministry is trying to address them. Though there are no technical definitions, the phrase, Vocational Education and Training, is used to describe the long duration (minimum one year) training programmes while the phrase, skills development, is used to describe the short duration (not exceeding six months) training programmes. This is not drawn from the literature but rather reflects a practice in Indian official discussions.

    Insights: 489 : The 2017 Annual Status of Education Report 1: India’s Learning Crisis

    Dipinder S Randhawa 27 April, 2018
    The 2017 Annual Status of Education Report released in January 2018 revealed that while India has achieved near universal enrollment, the quality of learning in schools has not only been poor, but has also deteriorated over the years. After eight years of schooling, more than a quarter of the children are unable to read a Standard 2 text, and nearly three out of five are not able to solve a simple three-digit by one-digit division sum. The learning deficiencies have widened over the past 10 years, raising serious questions about the value imparted by Indian primary and secondary schools, and the cognitive skills, capabilities and prospects of its youth as they enter an increasingly uncertain and demanding workforce. This paper attempts to delineate the reasons behind the poor performance and its consequences

    Insights: 488 : Xi Jinping-Narendra Modi Meeting in Wuhan: Understanding the Chinese and Indian Motivations

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 26 April, 2018
    The scheduled informal meeting between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on 27 and 28 April 2018 in Wuhan, China, is widely perceived as an attempt to reset the relationship between the two countries. This paper argues that the Chinese and Indian motivations for the meeting are different. As such, the meeting is likely to produce much positive hype, but it may not succeed in achieving any far-reaching outcomes for both countries.

    Insights: 487 : Emerging Strains in China-Pakistan Friendship

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 11 April, 2018
    The China-Pakistan friendship has been hailed by both countries as an all-weather friendship. However, the clashes between the Chinese and Pakistanis in Pakistan in early April 2018 point to the emergence of possible cracks in this friendship. This paper looks at the incidents and concludes that they have the potential to destabilise the relationship between the two countries.

    Insights: 486 : Afghanistan: Dilemmas for Peace and Security

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 4 April, 2018
    The perception that the Donald Trump Administration in Washington may be inexorably sliding into a state of dysfunctionality, might have prompted Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to hold out an olive branch to his Taliban opponents and make a peace offer to them. How the Taliban will react is uncertain. They are disunited but, at the same time, gaining ground in battle. The peace process will require greater calibration than what exists at this time between Kabul and Islamabad. So, as of now, peace is not in sight and fighting is likely to continue. However, with the United States’ interests and even capability on the wane, greater responsibility to end the conflict devolves on the regional leadership if it is to avoid wider conflagrations, which will be to the benefit of none.

    Insights: 485 : The Mahadayi River Water Disputes between Karnataka and Goa

    Amit Ranjan 19 March, 2018
    The Mahadayi river water disputes between Karnataka and Goa are likely to have implications for the assembly elections in Karnataka scheduled for April-May 2018. Both the incumbent and the opposition parties are hoping to make electoral gains from the disputes. Some of the candidates are allegedly extending support to the groups calling for a shutdown in Karnataka over the Mahadayi river issues. Constitutionally, a tribunal, which was set up in August 2013 to look into the Mahadayi river water disputes, is expected to deliver its verdict by August 2018.

    Insights: 484 : A Decade of India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership: Progress and Prospects

    Ankush Ajay Wagle 13 March, 2018
    Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang visited India for three days at the beginning of March 2018. The visit comes at an opportune moment. Indo-Vietnamese ties witnessed the completion of 10 years of the ‘strategic partnership’ in 2017 and Vietnam is in the final year of its role as country coordinator for India in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This paper reflects on the progress achieved under the partnership in the last decade as well as highlights potential areas of cooperation going forward.

    Insights: 483 : A New Chief Minister In Balochistan: Changing Political Tide?

    Anish Mishra 5 March, 2018
    The Balochistan Provincial Assembly moved to elect, with a vote of 41 out of 65, Mr Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, from a minority party as the new Chief Minister of the province. This was made possible through an open revolt by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers in the provincial assembly and colluding with opposition parties, thus compelling the incumbent Chief Minister Sanaullah Khan Zehri to resign for fear of facing a floor test in the assembly. This paper provides an in-depth understanding into the politics of Balochistan and examines the political developments in Balochistan. Given that the PML-N is the ruling party in Islamabad, allowing its legislators in Balochistan the right to dissent is a positive development towards the restoration of democracy and functional federalism in Pakistan.

    Insights: 482 : Sri Lanka’s Local Polls: Gains For Mahindra Rajapaksa’s New Party

    Roshni Kapur 21 February, 2018
    The results of the local government elections in Sri Lanka have brought former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, back to the political arena. The results were seen as a setback for the country’s first post-war government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe whose parties contested the elections independently. The elections were the first since the coalition government was formed in 2015. Public support for the alliance has declined due to its lacklustre performance on its reform agenda in the last three years. This paper explores the reasons for Rajapaksa’s victory and analyse the implications of the government’s defeat in the local polls on the country’s future.

    Insights: 481 : Will India Walk The Talk? Parsing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Davos Speech

    Duvvuri Subbarao, Taisha Grace Antony and Faiza Saleem 9 February, 2018
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the keynote address at the 48th annual World Economic Forum in Davos on 23 January 2018. He pitched the country as an investment destination to foreign companies and investors, called for a liberal and multipolar world order while acknowledging the challenges facing the world today. Reviving investment is critical for India to raise the growth rate and address the country’s growing challenge of unemployment. Whether Modi’s Davos speech will result in higher investment will depend on whether and how credibly India will walk the talk. How India will perform on the economic and political fronts in the years ahead will also determine to what extent India can provide leadership for the liberal international order threatened by United States President Donald Trump’s ‘deglobalisation’ policy stance.

    Insights: 480 : The Leftist Alliance Victory In Nepal: Implications For Domestic And Foreign Policies

    Roshni Kapur 12 January, 2018
    The provincial and parliamentary elections in Nepal in December 2017 witnessed the leftist alliance of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal sweeping into power. The results were a disappointment for the ruling Nepali Congress which won a mere 23 seats and was relegated to third position. There is a general belief that the elections will usher long-term stability, reconstruction and economic development into the country. This paper explores the reasons for the coalition’s landslide victory and the ramifications on Nepal’s foreign policy discourse with China and India.


    Insights: 479 : Ensuring Water Supply in Amaravati: Challenges and Possible Solutions

    Amit Ranjan 28 December, 2017
    Amaravati, the new capital city of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, faces the challenge of meeting its water-related needs. Although the State government has embarked on several measures in this regards, these are not sufficient to address the city's water-related concerns. This paper examines the severity of the issue and proposes several measures which may help Amaravati to overcome its water-related challenges.

    Insights: 478 : Chabahar Launched: A Boost for Regional Connectivity Amidst Global Uncertainty

    Jivanta Schoettli 12 December, 2017
    On 3 December 2017, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a much awaited US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) project to expand Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar, located in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan. Chabahar is the country’s sole deep-water harbour and only direct access point to the Indian Ocean. This is also an achievement for India, following the port development pact signed in 2016 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran, in which India committed to making US$500 million (S$676 million) available to develop the port and related infrastructure. Hopes are high for a boost in regional trade and connectivity. However, doubts persist over the port’s viability. In particular, India faces a tricky challenge in managing relations with Iran and the United States at a time of global uncertainty.

    Insights: 477 : India’s Job Creation Challenge

    Duvvuri Subbarao 17 November, 2017
    Three years into office, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to deliver on his campaign promise of creating jobs for the millions of youth who are flooding the labour market each year. Although the recent discourse about jobs in India has focussed on the job losses on account of demonetisation of high value currency late last year and the hasty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax earlier in July 2017, the employment problem is deeper and more structural in nature. Even as employment data are deficient and unreliable, there is no doubt that the problem is large and growing. There can be no simple or single solution to a challenge as complex as this – innovative policies and energetic action are needed on a whole range of fronts. Making a headway on solving India’s employment problem will remain Modi’s most formidable challenge and one that will determine his legacy.

    Insights: 476 : Donald Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific’ and America’s India Conundrum

    C Raja Mohan 13 November, 2017
    One of the new dynamics of the gathering geopolitical turbulence in Asia and its waters is the growing use of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’. During his extended visit to Asia in November 2017, United States (US) President Donald Trump has defined the region as ‘Indo-Pacific’ rather than the customary ‘Asia-Pacific’. Concepts of geopolitical space are never static, and Trump’s emphasis on the Indo-Pacific underlines the rise of India, China’s assertiveness and its expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean, as well as Washington’s plans to elevate its strategic partnership with New Delhi. It involves America’s strategic bet on India’s future role in shaping the security architecture in the eastern hemisphere. Actively promoted in recent years by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Indo-Pacific conception can be traced back to the decision of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to invite India as a founding member of the East Asia Summit in 2005. The durability of the Indo-Pacific dynamic, however, will depend essentially on New Delhi’s willingness to work with the US and its allies in the region.

    Insights: 475 : Sri Lanka’s Trade Imperative

    Amresh Gunasingham 1 November, 2017
    Optimism in Sri Lanka following the end of Mahinda Rajapaksa's presidency in 2015 saw civil and political freedoms liberalised, ethnic relations improved, and foreign relations with China and India rebalanced. However, the government's scorecard in managing the economy has been disappointing, with analysts pointing to large excesses in fiscal and monetary policymaking. This has arguably contributed to a slowing economy and mounting debt. This paper emphasises the need for the government to boost exports and foreign investments, revamp the tax system and lower barriers to competition in key domestic sectors to improve the economy.

    Insights: 474 : The Challenges of Higher Education in India

    S Narayan 1 November, 2017
    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stressed the need to improve the standards of higher education in India. This paper briefly maps the country's institutional landscape of Indian universities, examines the demand for and supply of qualitative as well as practical education, besides offering some ideas on how the issues facing India's higher education could be addressed.

    Insights: 473 : Donald Trump’s Iran Move: Consequences for the Shaky World Order

    Shahid Javed Burki 19 October, 2017
    United States (US) President Donald Trump's decision to not certify to the US Congress that Iran was abiding by the terms of the agreement which Tehran had signed in July 2015 with America and five other major powers will have serious worldwide consequences. It will further erode the rule-based world order built over the last seven decades. And it will, albeit indirectly, widen the gap that already exists in the professed strategic interests of the countries in South Asia. This paper examines why the American president took that decision and where that will take him, his country and the world in the years ahead.

    Insights: 472 : The Economic Thrust in India-Japan Ties: Potential Opportunities for Singapore

    Rupakjyoti Borah 16 October, 2017
    Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to India was full of potential for a qualitative transformation of an already-burgeoning bilateral relationship. Tokyo’s big push into India’s infrastructure sector should also be of interest to Singaporean firms which are well-positioned to take advantage of India’s “Act-East” policy and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”.

    Insights: 471 : Northeast India in India’s “Act-East” Policy: Exploring Connectivity with Southeast Asia

    Rupakjyoti Borah 11 October, 2017
    The location of northeast India makes it a key nodal point for India’s growing ties with Southeast Asia. As India celebrates 25 years of its dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the northeast of the country has become doubly important in India’s “Act-East” Policy. The ongoing construction of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will further enhance the importance of northeast India in India’s “ActEast” policy.

    Insights: 470 : Population Dynamics of Pakistan: Challenges and the Need for Policy Formulation1

    Asad Ejaz Butt 11 October, 2017
    Pakistan has a fairly young, large and expanding but unevenly-spread population; an untapped resource that can be converted into a sustainable-development asset if the facts about it are known and the government programmes and policies are harmonised with those facts to harness its true potential. This paper examines, by analysing the population dynamics of Pakistan, the impact that a young, large but untapped- and untrained-population can have on the country's chances of contributing to a peaceful, socio-economically developed and politically stable South Asia. The potential impact, though quite obvious, entails several challenges for the Pakistan government and private-sector organisations in promoting publicprivate partnerships.

    Insights: 469 : Doing Business in India – An Entrepreneur’s Perspective

    Gopinath Pillai 4 October, 2017
    It is an oft-repeated cliché that India is a complex and difficult market. This is not far from the truth. The economic liberalisation measures, initiated 1991, have seen the country make significant progress towards emerging as an important business partner and investment destination in recent times. However, doing business and investing in India continue to remain a challenge. Despite that, there is the potential of finding the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if one perseveres and looks at the country as a long-term prospect.

    Insights: 468 : The Belt and Road Initiative: India-China Tussle on Aid Imperialism

    Duvvuri Subbarao and Silvia Tieri 20 September, 2017
    India opted out of the high-profiled Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May 2017 in protest against the Chinese connectivity initiative infringing India's sovereignty. Instead, on the eve of the summit, India issued a statement outlining its objections to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), implicitly casting doubts over whether China would comply with international norms on development assistance and connectivity projects. This paper argues that, notwithstanding its track record to the contrary, China should conform to these norms in order for the BRI to deliver its strategic and development goals. India, on its, part, must review its own development assistance policies in order to gain the moral stature to act as a monitor in this regard.

    Insights: 467 : The Rohingya Crisis – The History and the Possibility of Border Adjustments

    Shahid Javed Burki 20 September, 2017
    There is nothing new about the mass movements of people in the South Asian sub-continent. Over the last 70 years, when the British packed their bags and went home in 1947, millions of people were forced out of their homes. Since the areas where they were living were no longer considered safe for them, they moved both ways across the border between independent India and the newly-created Pakistan in the hope that they would find safety there. The latest of these flights of people involves the Rohingyas, a small Muslim minority of about one and a half million people that has been living just across Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar which lies in neighbouring Southeast Asia. As with the other crises in this larger neighbourhood, this too can perhaps be resolved by some border adjustments involving Myanmar and Bangladesh. If not, there is the real danger of the displaced Rohingyas becoming one more source of international terrorism. This is the fear that has resulted in India’s decision to deport 16,500 Rohingya refugees registered in the country by the United Nations.

    Insights: 466 : Think Globally, Act Locally – A Roadmap for the Efficient Management of ‘White Pollution’ in Kolkata and Chittagong

    Sarmistha Biswas, Jayanta Saha and Ananya Nandy 20 September, 2017
    ‘White pollution’ – caused by plastic waste, such as the rampant usage of plastic carry-bags for their convenience, overlooking their impact on environmental degradation – has become a growing concern for sustainable living in both Kolkata in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh. The circulation of these single-use carry-bags is more visible in the unorganised retail market. Though controls are in place in both these cities, the problem of ‘white pollution’ is on the upswing. The long-term effective management of ‘white pollution’ demandsthe implementation of efficient market-based alternatives, along with the proper enforcement of a command and control policy. However, the choice of market-based alternatives lies in knowledge, ethical responsibility and integrity of the users of plastic carry-bags in the areas concerned.

    Insights: 465 : India-ASEAN Relations: The Youth and Education Factors

    Ankush Ajay Wagle 20 September, 2017
    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrated its 50th birth anniversary on 8 August 2017. This year also marks 25 years of ASEAN's'Partnership Dialogue' with India. To mark this milestone, India hosted the first India-ASEAN Youth Summit in August 2017. The summit highlighted an area of vast potential cooperation between the two sides: youth relations, particularly through educational arrangements. This paper looks at the progress achieved so far in this regard and the potential going forward.

    Insights: 464 : Pakistan’s Population – A Ticking Time Bomb

    Shahid Javed Burki and Riaz Hassan 14 September, 2017
    Some data from the April-May 2017 census in Pakistan have become available and the picture they paint is very troubling because of the high rate of the population growth. Some commentators have questioned the accuracy of the numbers in the census. In this paper, the authors maintain that this not helpful. Instead, Islamabad’s policy makers – and also those in the provinces – should treat the information that has been released seriously and begin to devise policies and programmes that would address the demographic problems the country faces at this time. The authors’ main conclusion is that, at this delicate moment in Pakistan’s history, serious attention should be given to the country’s demographic situation. The authors also propose carrying out follow-up studies as more data become available on various demographic challenges facing Pakistan.

    Insights: 463 : Sino-Indian De-escalation of the Doklam Crisis: Nuances of the Geopolitical Context

    P S Suryanarayana 5 September, 2017
    The latest military standoff between China and India at the Doklam plateau in the harsh Himalayan environment has ended through an “understanding” between these two Asian neighbours on 28 August 2017. However, the manner in which the two sides have portrayed the outcome shows that they have not yet fully normalised their relations despite a series of bilateral confidence-building measures (CBMs) agreed upon since 1993. Publicly unstated by both countries now, but going forward, it is time for them to begin addressing the real meaning of the doctrine of “mutual and equal security” embedded in these CBMs.

    Insights: 462 : The Triple Talaq Judgement: A Balancing Act by the Indian Supreme Court

    Ronojoy Sen 5 September, 2017
    The Indian Supreme Court, in a split verdict, has held the practice of triple talaq (divorce) unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's invalidation of triple talaq has raised the question of whether this could mark the beginning of a move to reform Muslim personal law, which is still governed by the Shariat Act of 1937. The political reaction to the judgement, however, seems to suggest that larger changes to Muslim personal law are not in the offing in the near future.

    Insights: 461 : India-Nepal Engagement: The Need to Rise Above the Rituals

    S D Muni 31 August, 2017
    India-Nepal relations are changing – not only because both these countries are transforming internally, but also because the regional strategic context in which they operate is being redefined, particularly by China’s strong push into South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s state visit to India from 23 to 27 August 2017, when viewed in this dynamic context, appears to be high on rituals and low on substance. It is clear that relations between these two close neighbours cannot be managed in the ‘business as usual’ style. The leadership of both the countries must not continue to bask under the protective feeling of close civilisational, cultural and geographical ties between them. They have to relate these traditional bonds to the future aspirations of their increasingly confident and alert people

    Insights: 460 : India and Pakistan Today: Still Living in the Shadows of 1947

    Amit Ranjan 31 August, 2017
    There were many who believed that the Partition of British India in 1947 into independent India and the new state of Pakistan would lead to the resolution of Hindu-Muslim communal issues. They were gravely mistaken. Today, 70 years after the Partition, communal tensions continue to plague relations between the majority and minority communities in both India and Pakistan.

    Insights: 459 : Outlook for the Continuing Success of Japanese and South Korean Automobile Makers in India

    Sojin Shin 28 August, 2017
    The automobile industry is a key growth engine in India. It has created millions of jobs and contributed to the country’s gross domestic product. The Narendra Modi government is paying great attention to this industry as the top job-creator under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. In this promising sector, the Japanese and South Korean automakers have, forlong, outperformed other brands. Their cutting-edge technologies and qualitative customer service seem to be the secret to their success. The Japanese and South Korean automotive enterprises, which led the miracle of economic development in their countries, are expected to cater significantly to India’s growing domestic demand and further develop their export-oriented production bases in India in the near future.

    Insights: 458 : The India-Japan Civilian Nuclear Deal: A High-Water Mark in Bilateral Ties

    Rupakjyoti Borah 25 August, 2017
    The entering into force of the India-Japan civilian nuclear deal represents a new era in cooperation between the two countries in the field of civilian use of nuclear energy. India is the only non-Non-Proliferation Treaty country with which Japan has signed such a deal. This clearly signifies the huge importance of this deal, not only for India, but also for Japan. However, several challenges need to be overcome before India and Japan can fully operationalise the deal.

    Insights: 457 : Labour Migration from Pakistan: An Overview

    Riaz Hassan 25 August, 2017
    Pakistan is one of the largest exporters of labour. Between 1971 and 2016, more than 9.4 million Pakistanis went overseas for employment. The main destination for Pakistani labour was the Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Almost 90 per cent of Pakistani workers are unskilled or semi-skilled and vulnerable to exploitative recruitment and working conditions. The other destinations include the United Kingdom, Western Europe and North America. The Pakistani diaspora makes a significant contribution to Pakistan's gross domestic product (GDP). In the fiscal year 2014-15, remittance flow from overseas Pakistanis amounted to US$15 billion (S$20.4 billion), accounting for seven to eight per cent of Pakistan's GDP.

    Insights: 456 : America’s Reset of Afghan Strategy: Potential Realignment of South Asian Geopolitics

    C Raja Mohan 23 August, 2017
    The United States President Donald Trump's reset of Afghan strategy marks an important discontinuity in America’s approach to South Asia. Washington's new strategy, crafted after an agonising reappraisal of American goals in Afghanistan and the means to achieve them, has come in the face of Trump’s own personal skepticism about continuing the American military involvement after 17 futile years. Whether it succeeds or not, Trump's new assertiveness in Afghanistan is bound to intensify the current churn in the geopolitics of the Indian subcontinent.

    Insights: 455 : The Indian Diaspora in Israel: Understanding the Past, Present and Future of Israelis of Indian Origins

    Benjamin Chin 22 August, 2017
    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in July 2017 made headlines for being the first by an Indian prime minister. However, it was also noteworthy for the large turnout of the Indian diaspora in Tel Aviv at a community event to witness Modi deliver an address. While the Indian communities in other parts of the world like the United Arab Emirates and the United States are well documented, little is known about the Israelis of Indian origin and their current-day links to India. As such, what should one make of Modi's overtures to the Indian diaspora in Israel? What is its value to India and what role can its play in strengthening Indo-Israeli ties? This paper seeks to provide some insights into the past, present and future developments of the Israelis of Indian origin.

    Insights: 454 : Water Disputes in India: Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and River Krishna Water-Sharing Disputes

    Amit Ranjan 22 August, 2017
    The water-sharing disputes between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are the latest in a list of on-going inter-state riparian issues in India. While these disputes are generally in the nature of inter-State disagreements, most of them also impinge on the distribution of constitutional powers between the Union and the States. This paper examines the constitutional mechanisms to deal with water disputes, and the nature of the disputes over River Krishna. It argues that it is difficult for the Indian States to resolve all such disputes. Hence, they should focus on watersharing management through the efficient and effective use of the available water.

    Insights: 453 : The Threat of Terrorism: Bangladesh’s Context

    Md Mustafizur Rahman 22 August, 2017
    The threat of terrorism today is very real. Terrorist acts in some form or other are occurring almost daily in the world. Terrorism poses a serious challenge to humanity as a whole. The terrorists evolve various modes of operation and devise increasingly complex ways to carry out their heinous acts with deadly consequences. As such, it is imperative to develop a thorough understanding of their presence in their various enclaves around the world. In recent times, Bangladesh has also been affected by incidences of terror committed, mostly by local extremist groups. As we know, terrorism is a global phenomenon. Logically, any debate on the issue in a local context such as in Bangladesh should, therefore, entail a concomitant focus on global terror

    Insights: Insights: 452 : Quo Vadis Pakistan? Yet It Keeps Moving!

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 21 August, 2017
    The recent ruling of the Supreme Court in Pakistan to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has brought about cascading changes in the political system of the country. Some view these to be damaging to democratic norms. However, in reality, these could actually buttress democratic practices and strengthen rather than weaken positive governance values. On these lines, this paper traces the role of the judiciary in the shaping of Pakistan's political tradition and its somewhat tricky relationship with the executive through the nation's history.

    Insights: 451 : Pakistan’s Political Landscape: Potential for Change and Lessons for the Muslim World

    Shahid Javed Burki 21 August, 2017
    A unanimous verdict issued on 28 July 2017 by a five-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to vacate his seat in the National Assembly. Without being a member of the National Assembly, he could not continue to serve as prime minister. The verdict was based on the findings of a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that was established by the court to look into the financial dealings of the prime minister and his children – two sons and a daughter. The JIT uncovered a large number of dealings that seem to defy the Pakistani law. While referring these findings to the National Accountability Bureau for action, the court used a relatively minor offence to remove the prime minister from his position. Why did the court act the way it did and what be the consequences of its action? This paper attempts an answer to this and a number of related questions.

    Insights: 450 : The Impact of Japanese and South Korean Official Development Assistance on their Relations with South Asian States

    Sojin Shin 11 August, 2017
    In spite of the current state of disarray in global economy, with its susceptibility to financial crises and resultant foreign aid budget cuts, Japan and South Korea have substantially increased their foreign aid, the official development assistance (ODA), in particular, to South Asian countries. This is puzzling. The Japanese and South Korean action certainly draws attention. In fact, Japan has been a key ODA provider for long with its focus on project financing, while South Korea is a rising ODA donor in the region, with its emphasis on enhancing the educational and healthcare sectors in the recipient countries. The active ODA engagement of Japan and South Korea with the region raises several important questions. What does the increase in foreign aid from Japan and South Korea mean to South Asian countries in economic and political terms? How relevant is such ODA in the current globalised economy that provides greater sources of capital even if only on commercial terms? How has South Asia benefitted from the foreign aid from these two countries? This paper addresses these important questions while briefly mapping the ODA situation in South Asia.

    Insights: 449 : A High-Altitude Tussle: The Strategic Stakes of Bhutan, China and India

    P S Suryanarayana 8 August, 2017
    The prolonged military stand-off between India and China, with no exchange of fire to-date, on the Doklam plateau in the Himalayan range, which Bhutan has portrayed as its territory, has strategic implications for each of these three neighbours. China is bracing to expand its strategic space in the high Himalayas by seeking to build roads in Doklam (also known as Dong Lang) which Beijing considers to be its historical sovereign territory. China says that India was notified in advance about the road construction, meant for “improving local transportation”, “grazing by livestock” and “border troops’ patrolling”.2 However, New Delhi views the Chinese activities and statements as a matter of “serious security implications for India”, particularly for “the determination of the tri-junction boundary point between

    Insights: 448 : The United States-India Drone ‘Deal’: Regional and Global Implications

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 2 August, 2017
    During India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2017, he and the United States (US) President Donald Trump agreed to a ‘deal’, whereby India would purchase 22 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, from the US. This partly reflects the burgeoning importance this platform is acquiring globally in the sphere of defence and security. This paper examines the drone phenomenon and argues that, given their potentially deadly capabilities, there is a need for an international regime with regard to the manufacture, transfer and use of drones. This issue poses a challenge to the international institutions and leadership.

    Insights: 447 : Can Nudges help with India’s Sanitation Crisis?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 31 July, 2017
    Can open defecation (OD) and its ill-effects on public health be contained through the construction of toilets? The evidence seems to suggest not. While India has made considerable progress in developing part of the physical infrastructure to deal with this challenge, deeprooted habits and limitations in the design of toilets and associated sanitation infrastructure are constraining progress. This paper contends that, although the supply of toilets is an essential cog in the wheel, attention needs to be paid to issues that constrain the demand for toilets. Can nudges help with the transition to a society rid of OD?

    Insights: 446 : Nudges: Small Behavioural Changes can Enhance Well-being

    Dipinder S Randhawa 31 July, 2017
    Nudges are a low-cost intervention that works towards inducing individuals to make voluntary choices which can potentially enhance individual and collective well-being. The paper follows up on this assertion with some empirical examples from India, among other places. We do not always act rationally. However our 'irrational' behaviour is often predictable. This predictability allows policymakers to induce desired, albeit voluntary, behavioural changes, or nudge without constraining choices. This paper discusses the analytical underpinnings of nudges and provides a brief survey of actual nudges deployed by policymakers across the world. The concluding part makes a case for the use of nudges to complement policy initiatives in India.

    Insights: 445 : The Consequences of Open Defecation in India

    Dipinder S Randhawa 28 July, 2017
    The consequences of open defecation (OD) in India are devastating. Despite rapid growth and rising incomes over the past 25 years, India continues to have one of the highest incidences of OD in the world, in sharp contrast to other growing economies. This has contributed to the extraordinarily high rates of stunting and wasting among children. Nearly 40 per cent of children suffer from stunting, and one of every two is malnourished. Why is this problem so intractable?

    Insights: 444 : Can Demonetisation Catalyse the Quest for a Cashless India?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 28 July, 2017
    Has demonetisation provided a boost to the quest for a less cash-intensive economy in India? The Indian government embarked on several initiatives to incentivise, persuade and compel the citizenry to adopt cashless means of payment. This was grounded in the belief that, aside from entailing high costs, cash transactions cannot be detected by fiscal authorities or, indeed, by any wing of the government, thus enabling a large segment of the economy to evade taxes. It also challenges policymakers assessing the impact of monetary, fiscal and other regulatory initiatives on the ‘unmeasurable’ informal economy. The shift to non-cash transactions offers a number of other benefits that could eventually help the pursuit of growth with equity. The most significant among these may be digital ‘Direct Benefit Transfers’ – payments to the poor under the federal and state governments’ social welfare programmes. If rendered effectively, this could curb a major avenue for corruption, become a catalyst for a shift to digital payments and radically enhance the efficiency of benefit programmes. India is rapidly developing the infrastructure to facilitate this transition, with some of the props already in place. Demonetisation, at best, may have helped expedite this transition.

    Insights: 443 : The India-China Stand-off over a Sino-Bhutanese Disagreement

    Rupakjyoti Borah 27 July, 2017
    The efforts by Chinese troops to construct a road in the Doklam plateau region in Bhutan in midJune 2017 resulted in a confrontation with the Royal Bhutan Army. Soon after, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs reported that, in coordination with the Bhutanese government, it approached and urged the Chinese troops to desist from changing the status quo. While China claims ownership of the region and has asserted that it has the right to carry out the construction, India has countered that the action is in violation of agreements with Bhutan on the boundary. Both China and India have refused to budge from their positions and they have remained in a stand-off since then. In the interest of the long-term stability of India-China ties, both sides have a shared interest in striving to find a diplomatic solution to the Doklam crisis. The impending visit of Mr Ajit Doval, India's National Security Advisor, to Beijing for a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) meeting has deep significance in this critical juncture.

    Insights: 442 : India and Israel: Cooperation on Water Management

    Faiza Saleem 27 July, 2017
    India is seeking Israel's expertise in water technology and management techniques. Cooperation between the two countries will enhance India's capacity in the management of water resources but this needs to be supported by water demand management, training of users for the operation and maintenance of technology, and robust legal and regulatory frameworks.

    Insights: 441 : An Analysis of India’s Participation in the RCEP Negotiations

    Chan Jia Hao 21 July, 2017
    The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations are aimed at crafting a trade deal to facilitate greater Asian economic integration by the end of the year. This paper analyses India’s engagement with the other RCEP participating countries, reflecting on recent trends in India’s trade and tariff structure with the other RCEP participating countries, and offers suggestions to enhance India’s economic engagement with the rest of the Asia-Pacific

    Insights: 440 : Reflections on an Asian Regional Security Architecture

    Shivshankar Menon 19 July, 2017
    Over the course of time, Asian states have succeeded in constructively addressing security issues, despite the relative miscarriages of pan-Asian ideas. Asia today faces several security risks and their corresponding consequences. In this context, an Asian regional security architecture would serve to secure Asia's future.

    Insights: 439 : Religion as an Electoral Tool: A Comparative Analysis of India and Indonesia

    Ankush Ajay Wagle 19 July, 2017
    Religion and politics have long had a complex and interdependent relationship in several nation states. This interplay is particularly interesting in the case of democracies. India and Indonesia are two such examples. The election of Yogi Adityanath in India this year was followed closely by the defeat of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, in Indonesia. These two 'religiously-tinged' events have brought to the fore the issue of religion in politics in the respective countries. This paper argues that the political system in each of these two countries has given rise to mechanisms which allow for the 'indirect' use of religion as an electoral tool. However, power and office have a moderating influence on extreme religious ideologies.

    Insights: 438 : India and China Competing for Influence in South Asia

    Shamsher M Chowdhury 18 July, 2017
    The widely-held view that India and China are competing for influence in South Asia has gained currency with the flurry of activities between the two Asian giants and the countries of South Asia over the last decade or so. This, however, can be viewed as a healthy development that all can benefit from. It is in the context of the prevailing post-ideological era and economydriven geopolitics that the perceived race for influence through friendship, connectivity and cooperation in South Asia by China and India needs to be seen and studied. It is a positive that can be nurtured in ways where there are no losers.

    Insights: 437 : Pakistan Faces a Widening Fiscal Imbalance

    Faiza Saleem 14 July, 2017
    Pakistan's budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 presents a bleak financial picture. This paper discusses the underlying causes for persistent fiscal deficits that threaten the country's recent economic recovery.

    Insights: 436 : Advancing Global Trade Integration: India and the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement

    Liyana Othman 12 July, 2017
    The World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force in February 2017 - a reassuring move in improving the flagging state of international trade. As the latest agreement within the Bali Package of the Doha Development Round, the landmark TFA is expected to provide a multitude of benefits relating to the cross-border movement of goods for South Asian WTO members upon full implementation. India has long played an active role within the multilateral trade system, at times being one of the few raising a considered dissenting voice against the consensus during the negotiations. Now, India, along with the rest of South Asia, looks set to benefit tremendously from the TFA, given the mandate outlined in its Foreign Trade Policy (2015-20), its current standing as one of the world's fastest growing economies and its increasing bilateral and multilateral outreach for further global economic integration.

    Insights: 435 : India-China Border Tensions: The Lessons not Learnt

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 11 July, 2017
    The latest outbreak of tensions in the Sikkim area of the India-China border can be viewed as a sign of China's hedging against India's increasing closeness to the United States. The tensions also seem to indicate that India's conventional deterrence against China may be eroding. The important lesson from the current tension is that India's strategy of controlling the smaller Himalayan states like Bhutan, as a part of its broader security strategy, no longer appears to be effective. Regardless of the repercussions of these tensions on India's broader security strategy, the real victim of the current border standoff between India and China is, arguably, Bhutan.

    Insights: 434 : The Road to the Good and Services Tax – Growing Importance of India’s States

    Duvvuri Subbarao 11 July, 2017
    The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax in India effective 1 July 2017 is significant, not only as a major reform, but also as an illustration of the growing importance of India's states in the country's economic management. As India graduates from first generation to second generation reforms, the involvement of states is becoming increasingly important in moving the agenda forward. The role of states is increasing, also because they get to spend a larger share of the total public expenditure and are on the frontlines in implementing governance reforms. How states use their growing importance will determine how India performs on growth and welfare on the way forward.

    Insights: 433 : India-China Border Dispute: A Historical Enquiry on the Political Selection of Boundary Lines

    Joe Thomas Karackattu 10 July, 2017
    The contestation of the boundary lines claimed by India and China resulted in the 1962 war and remains vexed unto this day. However, examining the boundary-making process reveals that the line each country claims as its 'traditional customary boundary' was not an unambiguous fixed one, and the line was mutable between the 19th and mid-20th centuries. For India and China, the lines emerged from a process of political selection, implying there is enough basis for new interpretations of 'reality' to be introduced to the conversations between the two on the boundary dispute.

    Insights: 432 : Nature without Borders: Reconciling the Needs of Wildlife and People in India

    Ghazala Shahabuddin 5 July, 2017
    Protected Areas (PAs) in India represent an attempt to ensure the ecological protection of the country, inclusive of wildlife, ecosystem functions and bio-cultural heritage. Despite a strong legal framework, the PAs face threats from the expanding development and infrastructure projects, poor management and the increasing biotic pressure on ecosystems. In this paper, the effectiveness of the PA network in India is examined from the point of view of socioeconomic sustainability and long-term viability. Moreover, the local- and national-level policies that are required to mainstream the PAs into the national development process are elaborated. A two-pronged approach at two different levels - re-aligning national policies to encourage green growth and mitigating costs to local communities - is suggested.

    Insights: 431 : Farm Loan Waivers in India: Good Politics but Poor Economics?

    Vinod Rai 3 July, 2017
    The government in the Indian state of Maharashtra has bitten the bullet. It has announced farm loan waivers which will cause a gap of about ₹32,000 crore (S$6.72 billion) in its budget. Much is being said about the political mileage that the party in power will get. This move, which followed the pre-poll announcement of farm loan waiver in another Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, has fuelled demands from farmers in other states too. Is the announcement such a political masterstroke? What will be its repercussions on the fiscal health of the state? The jury is still out. What is now becoming a pattern is the possibility of similar announcements being made by other state governments which will soon be going in for elections. Considering the fact that the fiscal health of most of the states is not good, the moves may crowd out capital expenditure, usually earmarked for asset creation.

    Insights: 430 : India-Israel Relations under Narendra Modi: A Robust Partnership in the Making

    Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 3 July, 2017
    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Israel from 4 to 6 July 2017 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. In a short period of three years since coming to power, the Modi government has invested considerable political capital to develop New Delhi-Tel Aviv ties. As a consequence, India-Israel relations have gone through a paradigm shift during that period. The visit, a first by an Indian prime minister, could provide a further boost to the relationship between the two countrie

    Insights: 429 : The Abolition of Australia’s 457 Visa: Impact on India’s Skilled Labour Mobility

    Liyana Othman 3 July, 2017
    The state visit by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to India in early April 2017 concluded with the signing of a number of economically significant agreements. While it would usually be considered an important development in bilateral relations, terse statements released by the Australian prime minister in the wake of the visit showed that not all was well between the two nations. This was compounded by the abolishment of the 457 visa, popular with many skilled Indians seeking economic opportunities in Australia. The restructuring of the visa appears to be in line with the anti-globalisation sentiments in developed countries, where the issue of freer movement of skilled labour from relatively less developed economies such as India continues to be one of the key hurdles faced at the negotiating table.

    Insights: 428 : Trump-Modi Summit: Keeping United States-India Ties on Course

    P S Suryanarayana 30 June, 2017
    The meeting between IndiaÔÇÖs Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the United States (US) President Donald Trump in Washington on 26 June 2017 was not followed by any major announcements in such areas as defence, civil nuclear energy, trade and greater Indian access to the American job market. However, the outcome of the visit will still be of considerable interest to both China and Pakistan. The focus now shifts to how the China-Pakistan factor may shape the US-India equation.

    Insights: 427 : China’s Vision of Blue Partnership: Convergence with India’s Blue Economy Initiative?

    Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 29 June, 2017
    China has come out with the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Vision, which has some elements different from its earlier Belt and Road vision, and it proposes to forge a ‘blue partnership’ along the MSR. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government also has the vision of a blue economy. Both countries have several agreements which complement each other’s ideas. This paper highlights the salient features and new elements of China’s vision for maritime cooperation, and discusses the converging interests of India and China.

    Insights: 426 : Political Economy of Food: A Case for India-Bangladesh Cooperation

    Habibul Haque Khondker 28 June, 2017
    The food security of low-income groups of people in Bangladesh has been affected by a spate of natural disasters in 2017. At the same time, neighbouring India has had a bumper production of food grains and a consequential plunge in prices and distress among farmers. The two countries, which have been unable to agree on the sharing of the waters of the cross-border Teesta River, could perhaps now explore rice diplomacy as a confidence-building measure, with India giving Bangladesh food grains as a mixture of humanitarian aid and export at price that the latter can afford.

    Insights: 425 : Rise of the Islamists in the Maldives

    Amit Ranjan 27 June, 2017
    There is more to the Maldives than just its idyllic beaches and tropical sea waters around its many islands. The country has also been witnessing a rise of Islamist groups in recent times. As result, its society and politics have witnessed notable changes which are reflected in some of the recent foreign policy decisions taken by the government. These developments have also resulted in indoctrinated Maldivian youth fighting 'jihad' in different parts of Asia. It is worrying times for the Maldives.

    Insights: 424 : India’s Security Policy: Ideas, Threats and Capabilities

    Sumit Ganguly 22 June, 2017
    An admixture of ideas, threats and resources has shaped India's security policies. This paper shows that this combination of factors has produced three distinct phases in their evolution. It also discusses the current security challenges that the country confronts.

    Insights: 423 : Myanmar as a Bridge between its Neighbours

    Marie Lall 20 June, 2017
    What is Myanmar's role in the region and the engagement it has had with its western and eastern neighbours, and allies in light of recent reforms? The paper shows that the new National League for Democracy government is continuing on the path set by President Thein Sein's administration that was looking east rather than westwards. Myanmar sees its relations with its western neighbours, in particular, India but also Bangladesh as less important than its engagement with China, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Japan. The paper focuses on two aspects of domestic policy that have resulted in changes in external engagement: the peace process (with China's involvement) and the rise of Buddhist nationalism (creating issues, in particular, with Bangladesh but also Malaysia). Lastly, the paper looks at Myanmar's foreign economic priorities, which link it closely to China and Japan.

    Insights: 422 : What Drives the Indo-Pakistani Rivalry?

    Sumit Ganguly 20 June, 2017
    What drives the Indo-Pakistani rivalry? This paper challenges a number of extant explanations, ranging from the memories of partition, innate Hindu-Muslim discord, the Pakistani claim to Kashmir and mutual misperceptions. Instead, it draws on a body of literature in international relations to argue that the relationship involves two states with markedly different preferences. One of them, India, is a status quo power and a security seeker. The other, Pakistan, is a revisionist state, which is dissatisfied with the territorial arrangements in the region and seeks to upend them. The paper then traces the sources of PakistanÔÇÖs revisionist behaviour.

    Insights: 421 : Some Observations on the Chinese Media Coverage of India and the South Asian Region

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 20 June, 2017
    The Chinese media's reporting on India and the rest of South Asia is generally in conformity with China's national interests and development objectives. Its reportage usually places greater focus on highlighting China's successes and achievements vis-?á-vis India and on presenting the latter in a less than positive light as and when the opportunities present themselves.

    Insights: 420 : Chinese Projects in South Asia under the Belt and Road Initiative: Disrupted by Debt?

    Amitendu Palit 16 June, 2017
    Moody's downgrade of China's currency ratings has refocused attention on the pitfalls of high public debt in China. Apart from long-term macroeconomic risks, rising indebtedness has serious implications for China's ability to invest in the overseas projects it has committed to. This paper studies the implications in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from a South Asian perspective. It argues investments under the BRI in recipient South Asian countries might be affected and new conditionalities for ongoing projects might be insisted as China struggles to balance conflicting goals of reducing debt and sustaining external investments

    Insights: 419 : Widening Gulf among Gulf Arabs: Implications for South and Southeast Asia

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 13 June, 2017
    The simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has now assumed the proportion of a major rift that has dichotomised the region. The impact of the resulting conflagration threatens to engulf the Middle East and perhaps the world. It has the potential to bring to the fore all intra-mural differences within the Islamic world. The issue will require adept and skilful handling to defuse, and, currently, such leadership at the regional, global and multilateral levels is lacking. Should the situation exacerbate, tiny Qatar may suffer in the short run but, eventually, the larger and stronger Saudi Arabia may end up paying a higher price.

    Insights: 418 : Three Years of Narendra Modi’s Government – An Assessment on the Economic Front

    Duvvuri Subbarao 13 June, 2017
    In the three years it has been in office, the Narendra Modi government has notched up notable accomplishments, especially in improving the investment climate and deepening financial inclusion. At the same time, it has disappointed on the jobs front and in establishing a clear policy line on public sector banks. The government’s bold decision on demonetisation was controversial and it is too early to say whether it has been a success. The jury is still out also on whether the government has got its act together on improving governance. Finally, the ruling party has to decide whether it will pursue the economic agenda with undivided attention or whether it will also simultaneously further its social agenda.

    Insights: 417 : The Strategic Significance of the Modi-Putin Summit in Saint Petersburg

    P S Suryanarayana 6 June, 2017
    The meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Saint Petersburg on 1 and 2 June 2017 acquired unusual strategic importance in diplomatic, not defence-related terms. India and Pakistan, the estranged South Asian neighbours, will join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as new members at its summit which begins on 8 June 2017. This marks a challenging prospect in the Russia-India engagement itself, going forward. China and Russia are prime movers in the SCO. India’s recent refusal to join Beijing’s global-scale connectivity initiative which has been endorsed by Putin, and Moscow’s growing interest in good relations with Pakistan, are factors that Modi may have to reckon with in the existing Russia-China-India trilateral forum.

    Insights: 416 : Donald Trump’s Visit to the Middle East: Pilgrimage for Peace or Invitation to Instability?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 5 June, 2017
    United States (US) President Donald Trump has just concluded his first trip overseas. He visited the region from which the three major Abrahamic faiths emanated: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Thereafter, he travelled to Brussels and Sicily for the summits of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Group of Seven industrialised countries. This paper focuses on the first leg of this tour. It was a learning process that may moderate his current style in terms of smoothening its sharp edges.

    Insights: 415 : The ‘Electoral Bond Initiative’ in India: Prospects for Authorised Campaign Finances

    Vinod Rai 1 June, 2017
    The process and magnitude of electoral funding have come under severe public scrutiny in India. It is an acknowledged fact that elections entail a huge amount of monetary resources. Obviously, such large amounts cannot be raised through individual- or retail-donations. Corporate agencies are rumoured to be making sizeable donations to political parties. The nature of such funding is opaque. The public, therefore, desires that political parties disclose the sources of their funds and maintain transparency in their dealings. Seized of the matter, the Indian government has, in the current year’s budget, introduced an innovative proposal of electoral bonds which appears to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The announcement, which has received very diverse reactions, is certainly a step in the direction of attempting to cleanse electoral funding. The scheme for issuance of such bonds has not been announced as yet. It has to be seen how effective the bonds will be in introducing transparency.

    Insights: 414 : The Case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav: Legal, Political and Diplomatic Implications

    Amit Ranjan 30 May, 2017
    On 3 March 2016, Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, an Indian national, was arrested in Pakistan over charges of terrorism and spying for India's intelligence agency. However, India has denied such allegations and maintained that it has no official links with him. On 10 April 2017, he was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial in Pakistan. Following an approach by India, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stayed the hanging of Jadhav on 18 May 2017. It increasingly appears that Jadhav's fate depends more on the status of IndiaPakistan relationship than the final verdict of the ICJ.

    Insights: 413 : India’s Bad Debt Problem

    Duvvuri Subbarao 24 May, 2017
    Notwithstanding a host of accomplishments, the biggest promise by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his electoral campaign for the high office - reviving investment and creating jobs ' remains unfulfilled. Obstructing this is the bad debt problem of the Indian banks which have defied resolution to reach crisis proportions. Earlier in May 2017, the government amended the law to invest the Reserve Bank of India with extraordinary powers to direct the process of resolving this crisis. This step has raised a number of concerns even as the prospects of its success are uncertain. A resolution of the problem of bad debts will lead to the next big challenge - of recapitalising the public sector banks. The government will then face limited options. Whether it will finally settle for privatising the public sector banks remains a tantalising question.

    Insights: 412 : Actualising East: India in a Multipolar Asia

    Dhruva Jaishankar 23 May, 2017
    After years of a ‘Look East’ policy that recognised the importance of the Asia-Pacific region for Indian interests, the Indian government decided to upgrade it rhetorically to ‘Act East’. The objective of the ‘Act East’ policy is to ensure a multipolar Asia, through deeper institutional engagement, land and maritime connectivity, and security partnerships with Southeast and East Asia. While institutional engagement and security cooperation have improved considerably over the past two decades, connectivity remains a work in progress. For New Delhi to ‘Actualise East,’ it will require a rethinking of the country’s China policy in the light of developments there, putting nuts and bolts to improving India’s connectivity with Bangladesh and Southeast Asia, and prioritising Indian Ocean security.

    Insights: 411 : The Belt and Road Initiative: China Acts ‘Global’, India Plays ‘Local’

    P S Suryanarayana 23 May, 2017
    Chinese President Xi Jinping has formally launched his ‘act-global initiative’ of creating a networked world which will have, at its core, Asia-Europe connectivity, for a start. India’s absence from Xi’s go-global launch in Beijing on 14 May 2017 has not cast any shadow over his efforts to think of alternative globalisation and translate that vision into a reality. India, therefore, needs to present its genuine local concerns in a manner acceptable to the international community. Indeed, New Delhi can and must do so without appearing eager, as at present, to take the wind out of China’s sails of a new-wave globalisation.

    Insights: 410 : Pakistan’s Relations with Kuwait: Furthering Strategic Cooperation with the Gulf

    Anish Mishra 16 May, 2017
    Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kuwait on 6 and 7 March 2017. The key objective of his visit was to persuade Kuwait to ease visa restrictions on Pakistani citizens. The issue of Pakistan’s disproportionate trade imbalance with Kuwait was also taken up during meetings with Kuwaiti rulers. This visit was also an opportunity for the Pakistani delegation to canvas for foreign direct investment projects in Pakistan. This paper provides an analysis of the relationship between Pakistan and Kuwait. It also identifies possible areas for future bilateral and multilateral strategic cooperation.

    Insights: 409 : Modi, Hasina and Mamata: The Triangular Tryst with Trust

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 4 May, 2017
    India and Bangladesh are generally seen to be two friendliest South Asian neighbours. The credit is largely owed to the relationship of trust that has developed between the two national leaders, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh. However, there are complexities woven into the relationship between the two countries that have deep historical roots in the way Kolkata and Dhaka have related to each other for over a century. All sides, including New Delhi, need to take note of and respond to these issues if the relationship is to be made sustainable. The structure of trust between the apex leaders will need to be expanded to include Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of India's border state of West Bengal, who holds the key to the resolution of the critical Indo-Bangla differences on cross-border water sharing. Importantly, the Indian government would need to play a disproportionately greater role to make efforts to bring the aspirations for a potentially very positive and mutually-rewarding partnership to fruition.

    Insights: 408 : The Rising Importance of Afghanistan and South-West Asia in China’s Perspective and Global Politics

    Dr Faramarz Tamanna 28 April, 2017
    Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, known as South Asia's West Front, has opened a new phase in Chinese foreign policy through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI has tremendously helped China rise as a game changer in the global transition of power. What is important to highlight here is the importance of Afghanistan, as well as Iran and Pakistan due to the potential threats they pose to crucial Chinese initiatives in the region, namely, the ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor, the Gwadar Port and the BRI. The social, cultural and political atmosphere within these three countries make them a potential source of insecurity in the region, with roots in extremism, terrorism and separatism. This cannot be ignored in Chinese foreign policy while it is investing huge amounts of capital in the region. It is important to note that the only state that could provide a common stage to facilitate opportunities for cooperation between China and the United States (US) in this region, is Afghanistan. US-China cooperation in Afghanistan could help create security and protect the region's major developmental initiatives at the same time.

    Insights: 407 : South Asia Today: The Need To Reset Regional Relations

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 28 April, 2017
    Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world, there is a sad consistency in the abysmally low level of regional cooperation in South Asia. The region has vast potentials, and the author argues that in order to achieve their full fruition, there is a need for a fundamental reset of intra-regional relations. The alternative would be a calamity in all respects.

    Insights: 406 : Pakistan in the Economic Cooperation Organization

    Anish Mishra 28 April, 2017
    On 1 March 2017, Pakistan hosted the 13th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit. This paper analyses Pakistan's involvement in the ECO. It acknowledges the desire of the leaders of the ECO to boost trade volumes and regional connectivity. The paper makes the case that this can only be achieved by developing infrastructure and implementing transit trade agreements. It further contends that Pakistan, as a state, has multi-regional characteristics which allow it to play an instrumental role in bridging regions.

    Insights: 405 : Sri Lanka’s Role in the Indian Ocean and the Changing Global Dynamic

    Harsha de Silva 28 April, 2017
    In light of the regional and global developments, the government of Sri Lanka has embarked on a mission to leverage Sri Lanka’s location in the nautical corridor between the east and west, and make it a hub of the Indian Ocean, as well as a key transhipment port for the Bay of Bengal trade. It aims to maximise relations with regional players such as China, Japan and India to encourage trade and foreign investments in Sri Lanka.

    Insights: 404 : ‘Glocal’ Citizenship and the Bangladeshis in Diaspora: Preliminary Considerations

    Habibul Haque Khondker 28 April, 2017
    Citizenship in the era of globalisation has moved beyond the four walls of the nation state. People on the move who have left their homeland in search of employment aspire to new identities and rights in their host countries which they strive to conflate with the rights and identities they were born into. This paper examines this new form of ‘glocal’ citizenship that seeks to combine the global and the local, with reference to the Bangladeshi diaspora.

    Insights: 403 : Hasina’s Visit to New Delhi: An Assessment

    Amit Ranjan 20 April, 2017
    For India, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to New Delhi may be a successful one, but it has generated mixed reactions in Dhaka. An inconclusive deal over the sharing of the Teesta waters, and India-Bangladesh defence agreements and memoranda of understanding have given reasons to many in Bangladesh to target Hasina’s government

    Insights: 402 : A Himalayan Sojourn and China-India Chill

    P S Suryanarayana 13 April, 2017
    The latest visit by the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, to Tawang in India's Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own territory, has snowballed into a crisis in the complex relations between these two mega-state neighbours in Asia. Beijing tends to see this as Delhi's choice of courting a crisis that might only damage the foundation of their relationship. Indeed, their respective policies of 'One China' and a less-articulated 'One India' may now acquire a sharp competitive colour.

    Insights: 401 : Pakistan-Bahrain Relations: Strengthening Ties with the Gulf

    Anish Mishra 11 April, 2017
    This paper focuses on the growing relationship between Pakistan and Bahrain. An analysis of this relationship shows that its key impetus was the visit of Bahrain's King Hamad to Pakistan in 2014.This led to the follow up visit of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Manama (Bahrain) in 2015. Bilateral political consultations took place in 2016. Bahrain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Mohammed Al Khalifa visited Pakistan from the 56 February 2017. There are four areas of interest that formulates relations between the two countries Trade, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), Employment of Pakistani labour in Bahrain, as well as Defense and security cooperation.

    Insights: 400 : The Indian Ocean: A Historical Perspective

    Sanjeev Sanyal 11 April, 2017
    This paper presents a historical analysis of present-day events in the Indian Ocean. The author looks at the tumultuous history of the Indian Ocean, presenting what has happened before as an insight into current global dynamics and the realignment of strategic powers in the Indian Ocean.

    Insights: 399 : Security in the Indian Ocean

    Shivshankar Menon 11 April, 2017
    The world's centre of political and economic gravity is moving eastwards to Asia. The maritime order in the Indian Ocean is calm but fragile due to the lack of an overarching security architecture and a diverse range of traditional and non-traditional security threats facing the region. Maritime cooperation agreements, naval risk reduction measures and negotiations around code of conduct, policing and applicability of UNCLOS are needed in peace time to keep the Indian Ocean secure in the future.

    Insights: 398 : The Jakarta IORA Summit: A Way Ahead for Stable Indian Ocean Maritime Order?

    Yogendra Kumar 5 April, 2017
    Commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), leaders of the 21 member-states have charted a wide-ranging agenda of cooperation. Meeting in Jakarta in March 2017, the IORA leaders outlined the first steps towards ensuring stability and promoting growth in the organisation's vast maritime space. While the challenges are many within the region and from beyond it as well, an available means of generating the requisite strategic trust among the member-countries is to synergise the efforts of IORA and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

    Insights: 397 : The Teesta Muddle: Can India and Bangladesh Find a Way Out?

    Amit Ranjan 3 April, 2017
    In recent years Teesta water sharing treaty has been one of the major issues of political and economic concerns between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs a larger quantity of water from the trans-boundary river Teesta for economic and political reasons, and the same factors guide the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal 'Ms Mamata Banerjee' to not agree to share about fifty percent of the waters with Bangladesh.

    Insights: 396 : Uttar Pradesh Sweep Boosts BJP and Modi

    Ronojoy Sen 16 March, 2017
    The highlight of the election result for the five Indian States that went to polls in FebruaryMarch 2017 was the huge win for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP's victory in India's largest State is a clear signal that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party are undisputed frontrunners in 2019 when the next general election are scheduled to be held. Though the Congress won in Punjab, it is losing ground across the country, raising questions about its ability to challenge the BJP in 2019.

    Insights: 395 : Demonetization – Evaluating The Costs And Benefits

    Duvvuri Subbarao 13 March, 2017
    Official data released a few weeks ago have indicated that the negative impact of the Modi government's decision to demonetize high value currency has not been as heavy as feared. Notwithstanding this better than expected growth estimate, demonetization has taken a heavy toll. Output of as much as one percent of GDP may have been lost. Besides, hundreds of millions of people, especially low income households, suffered pain and hardship. To compensate for that, the government will have to show benefits by way of a sustainable increase in the tax to GDP ratio and enduring improvement in the investment climate.

    Insights: 394 : New Resolve in the Face of Renewed Terrorism in Pakistan

    Shahid Javed Burki 2 March, 2017
    Pakistan has been hit by a new wave of terrorism. A series of attacks were carried out in February 2017, mostly in the tribal belt along the country's border with Afghanistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and some groups associated with that organization claimed responsibility for most of these incidents. These were followed by a suicide attack in Lahore in front of the Punjab Assembly building and one in rural Sindh. The latter killed almost 100 people who had gone to the popular shrine of Hazrat Shahbaz Qalandar. The Pakistan authorities responded by carrying out a number of operations inside the country in which 100 terrorists were reported to have been killed. On 22 February, the military was called in to help the civilian authorities with the return of large-scale terrorism. This paper examines the portents of these attacks for Pakistan and its political development and its relations with neighbouring Afghanistan

    Insights: 393 : Parrikar’s Visit to Dhaka: Significance for Security in South Asia

    Roshni Kapur 23 February, 2017
    Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently visited Bangladesh to create ground for defence cooperation between India and Bangladesh. His visit came shortly after Bangladesh bought two submarines from China. This paper will focus on the growing defence cooperation between India and Bangladesh and the security ramifications for the region.

    Insights: 392 : Polling Begins in Uttar Pradesh: No Clear Winner in Sight

    Ronojoy Sen 16 February, 2017
    Polling has begun in the seven-phase Assembly election in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, which will be completed on 8 March 2017. The election remains a triangular contest between the Samajwadi Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The ruling Samajwadi Party has, however, received a fillip with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav having emerged stronger after an end to months of feuding within the party and an electoral alliance with the Congress.

    Insights: 391 : India Budget 2017: Fighting High Public Debt

    Amitendu Palit 14 February, 2017
    The latest Indian Budget draws attention to the persistence of structural imbalance between revenue and expenditure that forces the Government to resort to borrowings. The imbalance must be corrected for achieving a sustainable public debt. This paper discusses the structural imbalance, the vicious cycle of public debt, challenges in achieving a sustainable debt path and the prospects for reducing public debt.

    Insights: 390 : Waiting for Hasina: Gains, Bargains and Expectations

    Amit Ranjan 9 February, 2017
    Whenever it happens, the much awaited visit of Sheikh Hasina to India is going to affect south Asia's security architecture, and have an impact on the future of India-Bangladesh relationships. In the recent past this much-awaited visit has been postponed a few times due to political differences between the Union government and the Chief Minister of West Bengal over demonetization of Indian currency.

    Insights: 389 : Has Demonetisation Impaired Policy Credibility?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 9 February, 2017
    In order to execute policies effectively, governments need to ensure that a policy initiative is predicated on realistic assumptions borne out by past experience, existing institutions and the structure of the economy; that it is internally consistent and cognisant of the interests and expected behaviour of different stakeholders; that the policy instruments and outcomes are measurable and directly related to desired outcomes; and that a clear framework is in place to assess outcomes and provide feedback to policymakers. This insights discusses these principles in the context of demonetisation and finds it lacking in internal consistency. It goes against the thrust of policy initiatives undertaken by the government thus far, that provided a clear indication of the direction in which the government wished to direct the economy. Demonetisation may have impaired credibility of future policy initiatives.

    Insights: 388 : Will Demonetisation Shrink the Informal Economy?

    Dipinder S Randhawa 9 February, 2017
    On November 8, in one of the most radical monetary policy initiatives in recent decades in a growing economy, India demonetised Rs 500 (S$10.50) and Rs 1000 (S$21) currency bills accounting for over 86% of the currency in circulation. The main objective was to curb the parallel economy. As the objectives of demonetisation were further clarified, it was evident that the government sought to create an environment in which the informal sector, where nearly all transactions are carried out with cash, was induced to 'formalise' and brought under the scrutiny of tax and regulatory authorities, thereby shrinking a large inefficient segment of the economy.

    Insights: 387 : Political Uncertainty in Tamil Nadu: a Key Indian State

    S Narayan and P S Suryanarayana 9 February, 2017
    The raging politics of succession to the late J Jayalalithaa, who virtually strode like a Colossus as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has exposed the fragility of even a stable region. There is much speculation about how the State Governor, an appointee of the Central Government, might resolve the current stalemate. A few scenarios are sketched out in this paper.

    Insights: 386 : Indian Parliament: The House needs to be More Credible on Penalising Errant Members

    Ronojoy Sen 9 February, 2017
    The Aam Aadmi Party MP, Bhagwant Mann, was briefly suspended in end-2016 for compromising the security of the Indian Parliament. This paper argues that though the Indian Parliament has since its inception used its powers to institute inquiry committees and penalise misconduct by members, it has been less successful in complex corruption cases such as the one during the 2008 trust vote where several players were involved.

    Insights: 385 : Pakistan at Davos: World Economic Forum 2017

    Anish Mishra 9 February, 2017
    Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif participated in the World Economic forum (WEF) 2017 held in Davos from 17-20 January 2017. Over the four days, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held bilateral meetings with Sweden, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Norway, Netherlands and the United Nations. During those discussions the prospects of deepening relations with the above countries had emerged. The Kashmir issue was also constantly raised whenever Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with foreign leaders at the WEF. He also met with Alibaba's Chairman Jack Ma and Microsoft's founder Mr Bill Gates as well as several other global corporate giants. This paper provides a detailed analysis of Pakistan's participation in the World Economic Forum 2017.

    Insights: 384 : The States of South Asia: A Politico-Strategic Reality Check

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 6 February, 2017
    We are in the midst of a rapidly changing world where old paradigms are shifting, and traditional alliances and linkages are also transforming. Tensions in some parts of the world are rising. At such a time it is incumbent upon the States of South Asia not to allow their energies to be sapped by crises and disputes peripheral to their interests and to focus, instead, on progress and development in their own region, expand cooperation and connectivity, or run the risk of lagging far behind other parts of the contemporary world.

    Insights: 383 : Pakistan’s Relations with Oman: An Important Gateway to the Gulf

    Anish Mishra 24 January, 2017
    From 11-14 January 2017, Oman’s Chairman of the Council of State (Upper House), Dr. Yahya bin Mahfoodh Salim Al-Manthri led an eight member parliamentary delegation to Pakistan. Among other initiatives discussed, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Dr Yahya agreed to start a ferry service shuttling between Karachi, Gawadar and Muscat (Oman).Pakistan and Oman share a very close bilateral relationship linked through historical ties, ethnicity, culture and commonalities in foreign policy. This paper is an analysis of the implications of Dr Yahya’s visit and provides an overview of Pakistan-Oman relations as well its benefits to the entire Gulf region.

    Insights: 382 : The Deepening Rohingya Crisis: Will it Engulf the Region?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 23 January, 2017
    The simmering 'Rohingya issue' in Myanmar is rapidly threatening to engulf the neighbouring regions. Initially, a problem of domestic instability and violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, it has transformed into a regional crisis with a refugee surge that has involved several of Myanmar's neighbours including Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia had recently convened an Extraordinary Mmeeting of the Foreign Ministers of Islamic Organization for Cooperation (OIC) to address the burgeoning crisis. This was the start of a process that could internationalize the issue and bring opprobrium to the Myanmar authorities at a point in time when they require international support for their fledgling democracy. Furthermore the fear of the radicalization of the Rohingyas, and the exploitation by Islamist extremists of the situation remain genuine and growing

    Insights: 381 : Conflict in Balochistan

    Faiza Saleem 20 January, 2017
    The year 2016 saw an eruption of violence in Balochistan. This paper examines the nature of conflict in the province and the role played by key stakeholders. It recommends four priority areas for Pakistan's leadership to focus on, in order to achieve peace and stability in Balochistan

    Insights: 380 : Forthcoming Assembly Elections in India’s Punjab: A challenge to the Ruling Coalition

    Roshni Kapur 19 January, 2017
    The Legislative Assembly elections in the sub-national Indian State of Punjab are slated for 4 February 20171. At stake are 117 seats, and the ruling alliance, consisting of Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP), is seeking a third term in office after having won the last elections in 2012. This paper argues that the SAD-BJP alliance is likely to face an uphill task now. The reported surge in anti-incumbency sentiment is due to the ruling coalition’s inability to deal with social ills such as high unemployment, the drug menace and the plight of debt-ridden farmers. The family of the incumbent Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has also come under fire for allegedly using its political connections to advance its business interests. These factors may dampen the ruling party’s vote in the upcoming elections, according to observers.

    Insights: 379 : India’s Demonetisation: The Pain-Gain Imbalance

    Amitendu Palit 18 January, 2017
    On 8 November 2016, India demonetised around 86 per cent of its currency in circulation by declaring bank notes of 500 rupees and 1000 rupees as illegal tender. The ostensible objectives behind the move were to seize black money and fake currency and facilitate the country's transition to a more digital and cash-less economy. Two months after demonetisation, there is focus on what it achieved. This paper analyses whether demonetisation was able to unearth black money. It also discusses the impact on the Indian economy and the importance of establishing that the pain and hardship caused by the move was indeed worthwhile.

    Insights: 378 : Bilateral Economic Interests of India and China: Rethinking respective roles in an evolving world economy

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 17 January, 2017
    China and India are two leading emerging economies of the world today. As neighbouring Asian economies, mutual economic interests of the two nations continue to evolve amidst various developments in the world economy. This insight seeks to address the developments in the India-China economic landscape commenting on possible areas of concentration to maximise mutual benefits going forward.

    Insights: 377 : Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections: Pivotal State braces for multi-cornered contest

    Ronojoy Sen 17 January, 2017
    Of the five Indian States going to elections in February-March 2017, Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the most important. Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having swept the 2014 national election in UP, the coming Assembly poll is likely to be a three-cornered contest between the BJP, the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, with the Congress as a fourth and minor player.

    Insights: 376 : Climate Change: An Early Trump Inflicted Wound

    Shahid Javed Burki 9 January, 2017
    Donald Trump is set on reversing President Obama's approach to climate change. The current president used all the executive authority at his disposal to constrain the development of the hydrocarbon sector in the United States. His successor, by nominating for his cabinet people such as Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil's Chairman, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary, has set the course towards increasing reliance on domestically produced oil and gas. If that was the outcome of his presidency, it would seriously compromise international attempts to contain global warming. The Asian continent would be one of the most seriously affected world regions. Rising seas will seriously damage the economies of the area's numerous islands, concentrated mostly in the continent's southeast. This was one reason why these countries pressed the Paris summiteers to agree on a lower target - 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than 2 degrees - as the limit not to be crossed by the world community. Some of Asia's largest cities that are on the coast will also face serious consequences. In South Asia and China, rapid melting of glaciers in the vast mountain ranges will produce first massive floods followed by sharp reductions in the flow of water through their large rivers. Climate change will also have social consequences as millions of displaced people will seek safer grounds to live. Once again Asia will be seriously affected.


    Insights: 375 : Pakistan’s Involvement in the ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference

    Anish Mishra 23 December, 2016
    The sixth Heart of Asia-Istanbul-Process Ministerial conference was held on 4 December 2016 in Amritsar (India). Pakistan chose to attend the conference despite India’s boycott of the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was scheduled to be hosted by Islamabad. This paper is an analysis of Pakistan’s role in the ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference.

    Insights: 374 : Nation Building with Non-Nationals: The United Arab Emirates’s Pathway to Modernity

    Riaz Hassan 22 December, 2016
    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has its origin in the British colonial expansion. For about two centuries the territories of the UAE were administered by the British colonial rulers of India. The colonial authorities protected the land and residency rights of natives while excluding immigrants for these rights. Emirati citizenship is now confined only to those whose ancestors lived in the seven Emirates before 1925. In 2015 its population was over nine million of which 89 per cent were immigrants mainly from South Asian countries with no residency rights. Since 1971 GDP of the UAE has increased by 231 times making it one of the richest counties in the world. This massive increase in the country's wealth is mainly due to the economic activities of its millions of migrant workers but its main beneficiaries are Emiratis. The paper offers an overview and analysis of these developments.

    Insights: 373 : Trump, the Future of American Democracy, and the Developing World

    Shahid Javed Burki 20 December, 2016
    There is a growing worry among academics and policy analysts in the United States that the rise of the movement that bestowed the presidency on Donald Trump may pose an existential threat to the country's political structure. If the system does get weakened, it will have worldwide consequences, including in South Asia. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States was held as an example of a political system, the basic elements of which could be adopted by the politically underdeveloped parts of the world. That may not be the case any longer.

    Insights: 372 : The Economic Consequences of Mr Trump for South Asia

    Duvvuri Subbarao 14 December, 2016
    America matters to the world. To say that American growth and stability are international public goods, in the sense that they affect everyone around the world, is clich?®d, but true nevertheless. Not just America's external policies, but even its domestic economic policies have a spill-over impact on countries beyond its borders. Virtually every country therefore has a stake in America's economic philosophy and policy; the stakes are even higher for emerging market economies such as those in South Asia whose prospects for growth and welfare are premised on the existence of a benign global economic order. Is it possible that this thought might be on the United States Presidentelect Mr Donald Trump's mind?

    Insights: 371 : China and South Asia: Towards an Uncharted Order

    P S Suryanarayana 14 December, 2016
    The “China Dream” that President Xi Jinping pursues, and India’s aspiration of becoming “a leading power”, tend to define the nuanced competition between these two neighbours in Maritime South Asia. In interacting with India’s proximate neighbours in this maritime space, Beijing is exploring globalisation with Chinese characteristics, while India is still exploring catch-up with China.

    Insights: 370 : Demonetisation of Indian Currency – An Assessment

    Mr Vinod Rai 6 December, 2016
    The Government of India took the bold and unprecedented move to withdraw the legal tender status of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November 2016. This move, designed to check the accumulated stock of black money in the economy, has undeniably created a great deal of hardship to the general public. While long queues form at bank branches and ATMs, the public has generally accepted the hardship in the fulfilment of the larger objective stated by the government. However, the nimble footedness of the government and the Reserve Bank are at test to end the limits placed on the withdrawal of cash. The long term effects of the decision are still to be assessed, but it is feared that in the short term the economy will certainly take a hit. An attempt is made in this study to see how the move has unfolded and assess its consequences for the economy.

    Insights: 369 : Governance, Growth and Social Inclusion in Tripura: Debunking the Insurgency Paradigm

    Harihar Bhattacharyya 6 December, 2016
    Tripura, located in India' North East, remains the best governed State in the region, and one of the best in India since the 1980s. A small hilly State with a population of 3.7 million and with major ethnic cleavages, Tripura has scored remarkable records in terms of governance, growth and social inclusion. Militancy in the State has nearly dissipated. This paper seeks to answer the question: what accounts for better governance, growth and social inclusion in difficult Tripura in the age of India's reforms, and what policy lessons it holds for others regions, and beyond? The paper argues that debunking the prevalent insurgency paradigm in understanding the region is long overdue.

    Insights: 368 : Pakistan-Turkey Relations: Sustaining the Momentum

    Anish Mishra 5 December, 2016
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a state visit to Pakistan from 16 to 17 November 2016. This paper analyses the outcome of the visit and focuses on the growing relations between Pakistan and Turkey.

    Insights: 367 : What’s Diaspora Got to do with it? Sri Lanka’s Reconciliation Process

    Amjad Mohamed-Saleem 21 November, 2016
    Sri Lanka’s diaspora-to-population ratio is known to be one of the highest in the South Asian region. Sri Lanka is now exploring ways to engage its overseas community for future growth and reconciliation. Engaging these stakeholders in development (and ultimately reconciliation) necessarily relies upon sound knowledge of who they are. However, knowledge about them is not sufficient to foster collaboration. Trust‐building is the foundation of effective engagement strategies, especially in the context of Sri Lanka.

    Insights: 366 : Upcoming Elections in Manipur: A review of the Political and Cultural Relationship between the State and the Center

    Rodney Sebastian 21 November, 2016
    The Northeast Indian state of Manipur will be undergoing Legislative Assembly Elections by March 2017. Media reports and recent defections of Congress MLAs to the BJP indicate that there is a high probability that the BJP would unseat the 15-year Congress rule in Manipur. The reasons for BJP's optimism and the particular strategies it has adopted has to be examined in light of how political and cultural relationship between the state and the Center has developed since Manipur became a part of the Indian union. In this paper, I will discuss how the Central Government's policies towards Manipur over the past six decades has exacerbated ethnic conflict and insurgency problems in the state. Moreover, a lack of cultural and psychological integration with the rest of India has left Manipuris experiencing a sense of alienation from the Center. Despite this, the experiences of the Manipuri diaspora, recent initiatives in investments in cultural and educational institutions, and ongoing projects to improve transport and communication linkages with India and Southeast Asia, has fostered optimism which has translated into calls for political change. The state's traditional support for the party in power and the BJP's allegations of corruption in the incumbent Congress party promises a closely contested election.

    Insights: 365 : Singapore Sri Lanka economic relations – a look at the trends and barriers to trade

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 16 November, 2016
    Singapore and Sri Lanka have recently launched negotiations towards finalising a bilateral free trade agreement. Offering a profile of the trends in bilateral trade and tariffs this insight reflects on possible gains which either country could expect through a liberalised trade and market access regime.

    Insights: 364 : Follow-Up Reforms needed for a Demonetisation Dividend

    Vinod Rai 14 November, 2016
    A concerted attempt has been made by the Government of India to unearth unaccounted cash. Reports of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) elicited the fact that cash in circulation was growing at an unprecedented rate when other indicators in the economy did not reveal any genuine reasons for such large amounts to be circulating. The manufacturing sector did not indicate any growth nor did construction, hence a year on year growth of about 15 % in the last two years was causing consternation. Given the serious situation which appeared to be emerging, as being brought out by many studies, the government had to resort to the surprise element in the ferreting out process. This will cause hardship for some time but will certainly address the 'stock' of accumulated black money. There is an urgent need to address the regeneration of black money which constitutes the flow element.

    Insights: 363 : Demonetisation – Is this time different?

    Duvvuri Subbarao 14 November, 2016
    The bold and surprise decision of the Indian Government last week to delegalize the two highest denomination currency notes - 1000 rupees (about USD 15) and 500 rupees (USD 7.5) - which account for 85 percent of the value of cash circulating in the economy will impose short-term costs but has the potential to deliver enduring gains, provided the measure is followed to its logical closure.

    Insights: 362 : Terror in Balochistan: New Lessons to Learn

    Anish Mishra, former Intern at the ISAS 3 November, 2016
    Balochistan in Pakistan has once again been the hit by a terrorist attack. On 24 October 2016, 3 gunmen struck at the Quetta Police Training College causing at least 61 deaths and leaving 117 others injured. Following the bomb blast at the Quetta Civil Hospital on 8 August 2016, it appeared that terrorists were beginning to shift focus from hard to soft targets and also moving towards specific targeted killings1.The latest attack seems to indicate a continuation of such a trend, although the rationale behind the choice of targets still remains unknown. This paper seeks to analyse the recent attack and its implications for Pakistan.

    Insights: 361 : Economic Aspects of India’s North-East: Opportunities for Trade through Greater Connectivity

    Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 November, 2016
    This paper reviews the economic profile of India's North-East region and the initiatives to connect it better with the neighbourhood, and comments on its possible trade potential with the Asian region given the current world-trade scenario.

    Insights: 360 : China-India Talks: Some Signals to Pakistan

    P S Suryanarayana 25 October, 2016
    For China, its on-going multi-dimensional dialogue with India is not a pastime but a serious business of foreign policy, thereby necessitating close Chinese attention towards India's concerns which include its complaints against Pakistan. This became evident during the meeting between India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Goa on 15 October 2016, as can be gleaned from the official interpretations by the two sides. A litmus test of China's attitude, not just attention, towards India in this regard is yet to come.

    Insights: 359 : BRICS – Making Haste (Too) Slowly?

    Duvvuri Subbarao 25 October, 2016
    The leaders of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – issued a long communique at the conclusion of their eighth summit in Goa, India, on 16 October 2016. The communique disappoints because despite its forbidding length, or possibly because of that, it is long on platitudes and affirmations and short on specifics and concrete decisions. One cannot but get the impression that the BRICS leaders had perforce to stay with generalities because they would not find common ground were they to drill down to translating aspirations to action plans.

    Insights: 358 : India’s Neighbourhood Policy, and its Perception of China: The Case of Sri Lanka

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 25 October, 2016
    India’s perception of Chinese engagement in its neighbourhood is a major factor driving its ‘Neighbourhood Policy'. One of the best examples of how Indian sensitivities are affected by China’s engagement in its neighbourhood, is the case of Sri Lanka. The Indian reaction and its efforts to reduce Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, have resulted in negative outcomes for both India and Sri Lanka. This paper argues for a new approach in India’s Neighbourhood Policy that better reflects the realities on the ground.

    Insights: 357 : Currency-Printing: South Asia-South Korea’s Trustworthy Relations in the 1980s

    Sojin Shin 20 October, 2016
    South Korea’s currency-printing technology was well-received in many Asian countries in the 1980s when they encountered currency shortage crisis and outsourced currency printing. In South Asia in particular, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Pakistan were the countries where ‘made-in-Korea’ banknotes and coins were circulated. Further, South Korea’s currency-printing technology was transferred to some countries like Bhutan for it to produce its currency notes indigenously. Such export of currency notes whose printing was outsourced to South Korea and the country’s technology transfer to South Asian state-customers is significant, in the sense that (1) possessing its own and producing the unique national currencies of other countries enhance South Korea’s state legitimacy and power, and (2) South Korea-South Asia relations have been built based on such mutual trust and confidence.

    Insights: 356 : Balancing or Containing China? Interpreting Chinese Views on India-US LEMOA

    Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 20 October, 2016
    The signing of India- United States Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) symbolizes the geopolitical changes in the Asia-Pacific region. LEMOA is widely perceived by the Chinese media and scholars as an agreement directed at China. These Chinese interpretations of this agreement might form the basis of China's future course of action towards the increasing closeness of India and the US.

    Insights: 355 : Xi Jinping in Dhaka: Implications for South Asian Politics

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 18 October, 2016
    Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Bangladesh (14-15 October 2016) is being assessed as a 'great success'. But the greatest success could be the potential of persuading India and China that, should these two major Asian protagonists collaborate for bringing progress and prosperity to the region of South Asia, this could lead to the fruition of the expression'win- win cooperation' which the leaders of the two countries are so prone to use but with so little to show for it in terms of achievement to-date.

    Insights: 354 : Why the Long-Term Case for India’s Economic Acceleration is better than Many Think

    Manu Bhaskaran 13 October, 2016
    The Indian economy's upward trajectory moderated in the second quarter of 2016 (2Q16), as the economy grew by 7.1% year-on-year (y/y) in 2Q16, down from 7.9% growth in 1Q16. With cyclical indicators firming, growth is likely to remain above 7% in 2016. With recent developments from the top-down showing promise for improved governance, we now assess India's long-term potential based on its inherent advantages and bottom-up strengths that have yet to be fully leveraged.

    Insights: 353 : The New Child Labour Law in India: Some Limits to Legal Solutions to a Structural Problem

    Taisha Grace Antony 13 October, 2016
    The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill of 2012 was passed in Lok Sabha on 26 July 2016 amidst deep controversies surrounding the Bill. The new Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act of 2016 aims at amending the existing Child Labour Act of 1986, which prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in certain types of occupations and regulates the working conditions in several others. It seeks to forbid employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except where they help their families in their free time, as well as to outlaw the employment of those between the age group of 15 to 18 years in certain hazardous occupations. On one hand, the amended Act balances the need for basic income with the need for an extra income, and on the other, it underestimates the adverse consequences of child labour for poverty alleviation in India.

    Insights: 352 : Charting a New Course: Modi’s Pakistan Policy

    C Raja Mohan 11 October, 2016
    Five elements define Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effort to end the prolonged strategic stalemate in India's relations with Pakistan. These are bold moves in favour of either peace or war, linking the dialogue to ending cross-border terrorism, discarding the unilateral emphasis on the sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, escalating the conflict horizontally to draw in Balochistan and Afghanistan, and probing the limits of vertical escalation through cross-LoC military action

    Insights: 351 : Change in America and its Impact on Asia

    Shahid Javed Burki 28 September, 2016
    There is no doubt that America is changing in several unexpected ways. This is reason enough for Asia " including South Asia " to get to know the country that is evolving and the direction it is taking as it moves forward towards another presidential election. Change has come for several reasons and each will matter for the world, especially for Asia. In this essay I will explore why the United States has moved away from the path it had followed with confidence once it became the sole superpower. That happened in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the current campaign for the US presidency having entered the final round of the contest, the nominees of the two main political parties for the forthcoming presidential elections have taken positions that will, in different ways, influence how America relates to the world, in particular to Asia. The end of history?

    Insights: 350 : Merging the Railway and General Budgets: A Positive Development for India

    Vinod Rai 28 September, 2016
    The Indian government has announced a slew of reforms in the budget process. A significant feature of this reform process is the decision to merge the Railway budget with the General budget. This decision certainly has a large number of advantages as a separate Railway budget had outlived its significance. The process to commercialise tariff fixation and free it from political influence is essential. This paper analyses the urgent issues that need attention to make the Railways a more financially stable enterprise. Private participation in the railways has been very limited. Innovative funding and greater capex (capital expenditure) in building the railway infrastructure deserves priority. The paper also analyses the attendant issues that need to be accorded greater attention in a time bound manner.

    Insights: 349 : A New Phase in India-Pakistan Tensions: China’s Rising Stake

    P S Suryanarayana 28 September, 2016
    India’s “surgical strikes” at the “terrorist launch pads” in an area controlled by Pakistan in late-September 2016 – an event that Islamabad has vigorously sought to dispute – have produced an altogether new dynamic in the deeply-chequered relations between these two South Asian neighbours. Significantly, China – Pakistan’s “all-weather strategic partner” – has made nuanced statements that reveal its heightened stake in the evolving situation. The paper evaluates this triangular equation.

    Insights: 348 : SAARC in Shambles? The Future of Regional Cooperation in South Asia

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 28 September, 2016
    India-Pakistan relations seem to have reached their nadir. But war is not an option for either, as its destructive potentials are immense. The impact of the situation on the regional organization, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), is great. But the body must not be dissolved, and must be made immune from the periodic tensions that bedevil the States of the region. SAARC should be seen as belonging more to the peoples of the region than to governments, as indeed is the case.

    Insights: 347 : India’s Construction Sector Gets a Boost

    Vinod Rai 28 September, 2016
    The construction sector in India contributes about 8% of the Gross Domestic Product. However, it offers employment opportunities to a large number of skilled and unskilled persons. To reinvigorate growth activity in this sector the government has taken very meaningful and far reaching decisions. The decision to pay upfront, 75% of the amount involved in a dispute even if government proposes to challenge the arbitration award, is very significant. Home buyers have been provided a level playing field now with the passing of the Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Act of 2016. This will provide a fillip to the purchase of apartments and make loans more easily accessible. An analysis of these decisions is attempted in this paper

    Insights: 346 : India-Vietnam Ties: The Stamp of ‘Modi Doctrine’

    Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 21 September, 2016
    The elevation of the India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in September 2016 can be helpful in promoting stability and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Stronger ties between India and Vietnam would reflect India’s increasing presence in the region and could keep Southeast Asia free from the exclusive influence of a dominant power.

    Insights: 345 : China-India Talks: Elusive ‘Strategic’ Consensus

    P S Suryanarayana 21 September, 2016
    Chinese President Xi Jinping has placed a premium on the bilateral economic aspects of the Sino-Indian Strategic and Cooperative Partnership, while calling for joint political efforts to improve the governance of global economy. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by contrast, tends to prioritise the bilateral political aspects of this partnership, while aligning with China for a few multilateral economic choices.

    Insights: 344 : G20, Trade and Steel: Shaping New Alignments

    Amitendu Palit 21 September, 2016
    The Group of Twenty (G20) Summit at Hangzhou took place in September 2016 in the backdrop of adverse prospects for global trade given its sluggish growth and the rising protectionist sentiments. While committing to tackling protectionism, the summit expressed concerns on the overcapacity in global steel production and state- support that was distorting global markets. It established a global mechanism for monitoring overcapacity in world steel production. This marked the success of a rare strategic alignment between some major developed- and developing-country members of the G20, notably the United States, Europe and India, in tackling China's command over the global steel industry. It also marked a shift in the discourse on the role of market-distorting state-support in global trade - with China, rather than industrial nations, now being accused of resorting to such support in greater measure.

    Insights: 343 : The Coming Test of Civil-Military Ties in Pakistan

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 19 September, 2016
    The Pakistan Army is reputed to be a coherent force, but obedience to the political master by its Chief has not always been its hallmark. Should, therefore, the passage of command from the present Army Chief be effected smoothly, and there is every reason to believe such would be the case, then it would buttress Pakistan's fledgling democracy.

    Insights: 342 : Ten Challenges for the New RBI Governor

    Duvvuri Subbarao 19 September, 2016
    The new Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel, has assumed office in relatively calmer times. Of his two immediate predecessors, Duvvuri Subbarao headed into the global financial crisis within less than two weeks of assuming office in 2008, and Raghuram Rajan came in the midst of a rupee crisis in 2013. Now, growth is on the uptrend, inflation is largely on target, fiscal consolidation is on track and the political situation is stable. Nevertheless, there is no dearth of challenges for Patel.

    Insights: 341 : China-India ‘Éntente’: New Priorities

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 22 August, 2016
    A modicum of convergence of concerns as two rising economic and political powers defines the current China-India engagement. This does not necessarily translate into a confluence of the long-term strategic national interests of these two neighbours. So, the durability of Beijing’s latest charm-diplomacy towards Delhi, as evident during the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to India in August 2016, will be acutely tested. Both countries are playing for higher stakes in a potential ‘Asian century’.

    Insights: 340 : Nepal: Caught Between Expectations and Anxieties

    S D Muni 19 August, 2016
    The new coalition government in Nepal, led by Maoist leader Prachanda, faces the formidable challenge of amending the recently-crafted Constitution for ushering in national reconciliation, besides the onerous tasks of reconstructing the quake-hit areas and raising the quality of administration. A silver lining, for now, is Prachanda's recognition of the ground realities such as the compulsions of coalition politics and the need for a balanced Nepali foreign policy towards India and China.

    Insights: 339 : South Asian Diaspora Convention 2016: Linking People and Ideas

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 11 August, 2016
    Most South Asian governments organise events celebrating their respective 'diaspora'. But South Asian Diaspora Convention in Singapore is the only forum that lends this resourceful segment of migrant population, now, in some parts extending to the third generation, a regional identity. This would redound to the advantage of all concerned, and should be able to weave into a garland the manifold advantages of the commonality of identity spread across the three would-be global supra-states of the world: America, Europe and the emergent Asia.

    Insights: 338 : Implications of the South China Sea Arbitration Case

    Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 29 July, 2016
    The South China Sea (SCS) arbitration case has given a fresh opportunity to ASEAN countries to reflect on their strategy and undertake confidence-building measures. A better understanding among ASEAN states is necessary if they are to offer a much-needed political message to China. Indeed, the SCS dispute is a litmus test for ASEAN unity and its role in maintaining regional stability and peace.

    Insights: 337 : China’s Stand on Arbitral Award: Nuances for India

    P S Suryanarayana 27 July, 2016
    China’s rejection of the South China Sea arbitral award, issued on 12 July 2016, is of nuanced interest to India. At the Nuclear Suppliers Group in June, China had tacitly portrayed India as an outlier in the realm of international law on nuclear non-proliferation. Now, arguably, China itself can be seen to be in a similar position in the domain of the global law of the sea. This suits India. Unsurprisingly, an authoritative Chinese official source thinks that India’s reaction to China’s denunciation of the arbitral award has been cautious, careful and balanced.

    Insights: 336 : India’s Recent FDI Reforms: An Analysis, and Possible Trends

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 8 July, 2016
    India’s regulations for foreign direct investment (FDI) in various sectors have been relaxed in November 2015 and June 2016. This paper argues that, while India has seen a surge of FDI inflows over the last two years (not always in sectors where the regulations were relaxed), the rising global uncertainties and the Indian economy’s structural issues may hinder potential inflows of FDI in the medium-term

    Insights: 335 : Shadow-Boxing over Nuclear Supplies: A China-India Tussle for ‘Power’

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 28 June, 2016
    China has now run the proverbial extra mile to demonstrate to India that it should know the limitations of its power to shape the emerging global order of the 21st Century. Beijing has done so by keeping India out of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but explicitly disclaiming any such anti-India agenda. At a related echelon, New Delhi has acceded to the Missile Technology Control Regime, another high-profile group where significantly China is not a member. Outwardly esoteric, such a China-India shadow-boxing has not affected the dialogue between these two countries, at least not immediately. If sustained, such a potentially all-weather China-India dialogue should augur well for the future of Asia and the world.

    Insights: 334 : India’s Interests in South China Sea: Implications for Regional and Global Security and Stability

    R S Vasan, Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the Head, Strategy and Security studies, Centre for Asian Studies at Chennai (India) 1 June, 2016
    There are some very interesting developments in the maritime domain both in the Indian Ocean and also in the South China Sea (SCS). While China does have legitimate interest in the Indian Ocean, there are similar Indian interests in the SCS though India is not a party to the disputes in the SCS. China seems to carve out an ambitious plan in the Indian Ocean using some innovative instruments such as the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) to further its global reach and influence. To any observer it is clear that India has as much right in engaging the neighbours of China for commercial and strategic reasons. By all yardsticks India’s interests in the SCS and its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other East Asian powers are consistent with its Act East policy to further its own economic and strategic worth. New Delhi’s increasing engagement with the United States which has even gone to the extent of accepting India as a major Non-NATO ally in principle and has introduced a bill which is expected to become a law after the due process in USA [NATO being the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] has ruffled the feathers of China which sees the actions of the US in the SCS as unwanted intrusion. It even accuses the US of propping up the claimants in South China Sea by quoting various provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and undertaking military manoeuvres in the area for protecting the concept of Freedom of Navigation. The developments in the South China Sea in the coming years will have an immediate impact on the region and also spin-off effects in the Indian Ocean where China seeks to establish its influence.

    Insights: 333 : South Asia: A Strategic Update on Pitfalls, Potentials and Possibilities

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 27 May, 2016
    South Asia is not a coherent entity. Despite that, the region is not without clout on the international stage. This is due to several factors – India’s sustainable democracy and economic growth, Pakistan’s strides in countering terrorism, Bangladesh’s emerging culture of democratic pluralism and economic performance, and Sri Lanka’s recent peaceful transfer of power and focus on development. This makes for an important role for the region in the global context.

    Insights: 332 : India’s Maritime Turn: A Blue Economy Strategy in the Making?

    Jivanta Schottli 11 May, 2016
    The India Maritime Summit took place from 14 to 16 April 2016 and was launched with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Shipping announced that 141 Memoranda of Understanding/Business Agreements were signed, with estimated investments of about Rs. 83,000 crores. A National Perspective Plan for what has been termed “port-led development”, prepared under Sagarmala (a longterm programme approved by the Union Cabinet on 25 March, 2015), was also released on this occasion by the Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari. Does this concerted effort to showcase India’s maritime sector and capacity signal a Blue Economy strategy?

    Insights: 331 : Kerala’s Election: Signposts and a Paradox

    Robin Jeffrey 11 May, 2016
    Because of its position as a long-time bastion of communist parties and its progress in health and well-being, election trends and results in the southern Indian State of Kerala are invariably watched with special interest. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is expected to win the poll on 16 May 2016, and thus continue the Kerala tradition of ousting incumbent governments. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims to win seats in Kerala for the first time and thereby signal the demise of the CPI(M). Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), in power for the past five years, struggles desperately to hang on. The next government will face major financial and environmental challenges. Kerala’s relative prosperity, based on remittances from more than two million Keralites working overseas, means growing environmental degradation. Governments, committed to longstanding social programs, lack funds for much-needed infrastructure. And in spite of its famed level of female literacy and favourable sex ratio, few women participate in Kerala’s politics.

    Insights: 330 : Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis and Post-Budget 2016 Tax Changes

    Ms. Iromi Dharmawardhane , Research Associate at ISAS 4 May, 2016
    Sri Lanka may face a severe balance of payments crisis, primarily brought on by the inability to service foreign loans, a high fiscal deficit and a foreign exchange crisis, if the government fails to finance the deficit in time through foreign borrowings. In an effort to increase revenue and stabilise the economy, the government also plans to make structural changes to its fiscal policy. New taxes and revisions to those proposed in Budget 2016 were announced in March 2016 to widen the country's tax base. While post-war Sri Lanka carries much growth and investment potential, the country's near-term economic outlook remains precarious.

    Insights: 329 : A Preliminary Assessment of Skills Development in India

    Dr Dipinder S Randhawa is Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 29 April, 2016
    The Indian G overnment’s target of s killing and employing productively 500 million workers by 2022 does not afford it the luxury of time. Nor can the inherited legacy of decades of planned development be done away with overnight. With a young population and favourable demographic profile, India has a short window of opportunity to avail itself of the ‘demographic dividend’. While it may be premature to assess the overall effectiveness of the policy framework, there are early indications about the response to policy as well as how legacy issues are addressed . The challenges can be classified as social, structural and those resulting from policy distortions

    Insights: 328 : Skills Development Landscape in India: Backdrop and the Policy Framework

    Dr Dipinder S Randhawa is a Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 29 April, 2016
    2 Introduction India’s growth trajectory has been unorthodox. Developing economies typically shift from agriculture to manufacturing as surp l us is transferred from farms to investment in factories. From a predominantly agrarian base, the Indian economy , however , has been shifting to services, while manufacturing cont inues to lag ( Table 1). The s ervices sector contribute s 60 % of G ross D omestic P roduct (GDP) , but employ s just 34% of the workforce. India’s buoyant I nformation T echnology (IT) domain is globally competitive , accounting for 20% of the country’s exports, but it employs just 3 million persons . 52% of the work - force still depends on agriculture and associated activities. However , m ass - manufacturing alone has the capacity to absorb the large volume of labour that is displaced from the countrysi de. T he services sector absorbs less labour for each rupee of investment

    Insights: 327 : India-Myanmar Relations: Context of Contemporary Geographical Routes and Linkages

    Professor Ms Lipi Ghosh , Professor and Director of the Centre for South & South East Asian Studies, University of Calcutta (India) 20 April, 2016
    India and Myanmar should focus on their borders as connecting points; safe and secure borders are essential for faster trade. There is the other side of the story - greater economic integration will ensure augmented safety along the borders resulting in an ambience of economic prosperity. It is high time to think of developing these connecting links and making large-scale investment in developing road- and railway-linkages.

    Insights: 326 : H-1B Visas, India and the US: Trade Tussle Intensifies

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead at ISAS 18 April, 2016
    Higher fees for H-1B visas have become a heavily contentious issue between India and the US with India taking the dispute to the WTO. The electoral rhetoric in the US criticises H-1B visas for snatching local jobs. This paper analyses the contrasting perceptions on temporary skilled migration into the US, IndiaÔÇÖs concerns on restricting the latter and the yawning gap between India and the US on trade issues notwithstanding growing strategic proximity.

    Insights: 325 : Forging Sri Lanka’s Third Republican Constitution

    Ayesha Kalpani Wijayalath 12 April, 2016
    The Constitutional Assembly officially commenced the process of drafting Sri Lanka's Third Republican Constitution on 6 April 2016 with the prime promise to abolish the Executive Presidency, to introduce electoral reform and to provide a constitutional resolution for the national issue. It is vital for the National Unity Government to forge a constitution that consolidates democracy and creates an environment to prevent the recurrence of another ethnic conflict.

    Insights: 324 : Structure and Resilience in India-Nepal Relations

    Mr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy is Research Associate , ISAS 5 April, 2016
    India-Nepal relations can be placed on an even keel only after Nepal addresses its domestic political problems, particularly the task of making its Constitution more inclusive. India, too, must go beyond a mere demonstration of goodwill.

    Insights: 323 : Labour Problems: Recent Developments in India

    Professor John Harriss is Visiting Research Professor ,ISAS 29 March, 2016
    India's trade unions are not a spent force, but the prospects of tripartite negotiations between employers, the state and unions to address the dysfunctionality of the country's current labour legislation, for both capital and labour, are probably dim.

    Insights: 322 : The Imperative of Managing the Consequence of Global Change for South Asia

    Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March, 2016
    The author advocates regional economic integration as the best means open to the South Asian states to cope with the raging changes in the global economic and political domains.

    Insights: 321 : Significance of Some Salient Issues for South Asia’s Future

    Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March, 2016
    While not all the issues of rising global concern can be traced to one or more countries in South Asia, the region is not immune to their likely consequences.

    Insights: 320 : The Impact of Countries and Regions of Consequence on South Asia

    Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow ,ISAS 29 March, 2016
    The changing realities in various countries and regions are briefly outlined as possible or potential factors that could impinge on South Asia in significant ways.

    Insights: 319 : Challenges of Identity and Issues

    Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March, 2016
    There is a question whether Pakistan and Afghanistan will continue to be part of the South Asian sub-continent in their global outlook, or will drift towards becoming part of Central Asia or West Asia.

    Insights: 318 : Elections in Four Indian States: A Test for the BJP and Modi

    Dr. Ronojoy Sen , Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 15 March, 2016
    Elections will be held in four States and one Union Territory in April and May 2016. The polls will be a crucial test for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre and a gauge of the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, two years into his tenure.

    Insights: 317 : A Case for China’s Security Role in South Asia

    Ms Ramandeep Kaur, formerly an Intern at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 14 March, 2016
    The paper focuses on the constructive role that China can play in enhancing security in South Asia. The potential contribution that China can make to enhancing non-traditional security in the region is significant. Two areas of non-traditional security, where fruitful cooperation between China and South Asia can be intensified, will be explored in depth, namely environmental security as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. China’s contribution to economic security - another important aspect of non-traditional security - in the region has been well-documented and will therefore not be the focus of the present analysis. Armed with huge foreign currency reserves and a vast engineering and manufacturing capacity, China is facilitating infrastructure development at an unprecedented scale. An opportunity for cooperation on the non-traditional security front is also presenting itself in anti-terrorism endeavour. The threat of terrorism from the Islamic State, can catalyse closer China-South Asian anti-terror cooperation. The paper proceeds in the following manner. Arguing for the importance of South Asian security from the Chinese point of view, a peaceful South Asia is placed as the backdrop of the Chinese policy framework, both international and domestic. An attempt is then made to look at the details of cooperation in non-traditional security areas, following which there is a discussion ofthe potential collaboration in counter-terrorism efforts.

    Insights: 316 : Down-Sizing Sri Lanka’s Executive Presidency

    Ms Ayesha Kalpani Wijayalath ,Research Assistant at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 10 March, 2016
    The campaign for curbing executive powers and strengthening democratic governance was a decisive factor in Maithripala Sirisena’s victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election in January 2015. In keeping with his ‘100-day programme’, President Sirisena succeeded in getting the 19th Amendment to the Constitution duly enacted. The Amendment does not ensure a total abolition of the executive presidency, yet it dismantled, or at the minimum, diluted, the excessive powers of the executive presidency. It can, therefore, be regarded as a milestone along Sri Lanka’s path towards greater representative democracy.

    Insights: 315 : India-Bangladesh Relations: Moving towards Friendship

    Ms Chandrani Sarma,Research Assistant at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 10 March, 2016
    India-Bangladesh relations are advancing rapidly in recent times. There are of c impediments such as non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in trade, and the Teesta water-sharing need to be overcome through negotiations. But if the maritime agreement is any guid ahead appears to be smooth, provided there is sufficient political will on both sides.

    Insights: 314: India Budget 2016 and the Indian Economy

    Deeparghya Mukherjee 11 February, 2016
    India's Union Budget 2016 has been criticised for lacking big bang reforms, or not actively promoting industries and, instead, being largely pro-rural and agricultural sectors. This paper throws light on some aspects of the budget which are small steps towards improving the business climate of the country, keeping in mind the constraints, advantages and vision of the present Union Government. The major points presented here are largely derived from a panel discussion organised by the Institute ofSouth Asian Studies (ISAS) in Singapore on 3 March, 2016. The panellists were Mr Vinod Rai, Dr Jehangir Aziz, Mr Rohan Solapurkar, Mr Vikram Khanna and Dr Amitendu Palit.

    Insights: 313 : Discourse on Kashmir: From Territoriality to ‘Enlightened Sovereignty’

    Gull Wani, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kashmir in India 11 February, 2016
    The author calls for renewed focus on the idea of ‘soft borders’ between India and Pakistan, with particular reference to Jammu and Kashmir, in the light of a theory of ‘enlightened sovereignty’ that supersedes territoriality and other conventional attributes of sovereignty.Rich dividends in terms of peace and development can be reaped if South Asian countries in general, and India and Pakistan in particular, work together. Many legacy issues, particularly the dispute over Kashmir, have hampered cooperation between India and Pakistan, and the overall development of South Asia. This does not augur well for the search for a unified geo-political and geo-economic South Asia. The famous observation by Israel’s former Foreign Minister Abba Eban that “history teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they exhaust all other alternatives” holds true for India and Pakistan.

    Insights: 312 : The Goods & Services Tax Debate in India: Concepts and Issues

    S Narayan , Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 5 February, 2016
    The chequered but ongoing political efforts to introduce a uniform Goods & Services Tax (GST) throughout India should actually be seen through a larger economic prism. The current sense of urgency, regardless of the web of politics in which this move is caught, can be explained by a simple but important expectation. The GST can indeed be a game changer for trade among India's sub-national states, because the measure, as conceived, is likely to contribute at least one percentage point to the growth in the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    Insights: 311 : The Lifting of Sanctions on Iran: Implications for India-Iran Economic and Commercial Ties

    Seyed Hossein Zarhani , Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, South Asia Institute (SAI), Heidelberg University, Germany 3 February, 2016
    Iran’s extra oil production can decrease oil price in global markets, which can be considered as relief for India’s economy. However, by terminating the Rupee-based payment mechanism, India’s products do not possess their exclusive market in Iran. Development project of Farzad-B gas field, investment in Chabahar port and an undersea gas pipeline can be seen as the potential prospects of mutual cooperation.“We never forget our friend who has been with us during a difficult time;” Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, commented on Indo-Iran economic and commercial relations after the lifting of the sanctions during his visit to New Delhi in August 2015

    Insights: 310 : India-APEC Products Trade: Importance of Trade in Intermediate Products and the Challenges Ahead

    Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 2 February, 2016
    India's principal trade partners are countries/economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region, and over the last decade the share of APEC in India's trade has been growing. Specifically, India's trade share with East and Southeast Asian countries has been increasing significantly. Given that APEC's share in world trade increases year on year, as well as its share in India's trade basket, there is a need to look deeper into this.

    Insights: 309 : Could the Middle East Quagmire Be Solved with Something like ASEAN?

    Girija Pande, Member of the Management Board of ISAS 1 February, 2016
    “If you want to start a third world war-just call CNN and do something crazy like a belly dance or something here!” said our erudite guide, as I stood surveying one of the most historic and probably one of the most politically sensitive spots in the world.This was Jerusalem – the old city – where my family and I stood on a hot July day in front of Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock to Muslims).The scorching Mediterranean sun reflected off the muzzle of the gun held by the soldier guarding what must be the most religious site on earth: You had the Wailing Wall, which is the only remains of the original Temple of Solomon – where once the Arc of Covenant was kept and the same spot where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Issac, making this the holiest spot in the world for Jews; just a stone’s throw away is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher-site believed by Christians to be where Christ was crucified.

    Insights: 308 : Hollande in Delhi: The Hidden Dynamic of Indo-French Bonhomie

    Subrata Kumar Mitra, Director and Visiting Research Professor at ISAS 1 February, 2016
    The visit of the French President Mr François Hollande to India as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations provides an important window to observe the unfolding of Indo- French relations and to assess their significance for India’s larger diplomatic goals. The visit also shows the value of ‘parade diplomacy’ as an instrument of soft power in the age of instant communication at the global level.

    Insights: 307 : The Lure of Lahore : Need for India-Pakistan D?®tente

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 27 January, 2016
    India and Pakistan must learn that Pathankot and Peshawar were mindless acts of terror, to prevent whose recurrence, there is the need to enhance cooperation, not diminish it. Pakistan must continue to take the preventive measures in real earnest, and India must try and rein in the detractors. The stakes are staggeringly high for both. Failure in carrying forward the initiative for comprehensive dialogue that has happily begun may have winners among the ‘nay-sayers’, but will also have two losers: India and Pakistan.

    Insights: 306 : India’s Bid for APEC Membership : Trade Policy is the Stumbling Block

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead at ISAS 26 January, 2016
    India’s chances of becoming a member of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum brightened considerably after the United States welcomed its interest in early 2015. But till now, there has hardly been any progress, with doubts continuing to linger over India’s commitment to an open and forward-looking external trade policy. This paper underlines the divergence between India’s foreign and trade policies, and argues that the latter has hardly been able to match the energy and proactivity of the former. Without strong signals on commitment to external sector reforms, India will find it difficult to gain support from the APEC community as a prospective member.

    Insights: 305 : Dealing with Pakistan: Implications for India’s Pakistan policy after Pathankot

    Sinderpal Singh , Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 18 January, 2016
    The recent terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot has sparked a new round of commentaries on how New Delhi should deal with the country's internal security situation and with neighbouring Pakistan, given the suspicion that terrorists from that country had carried out this attack. The planned India-Pakistan talks are on hold, even as the Modi Government is under domestic pressure to shore up security at home.

    Insights: 304 : India: Developing World’s Voice on Climate Issues

    Chandrani Sarma, Research Assistant at ISAS 12 January, 2016
    The Conference on climate change in Paris in December 2015 demonstrated what an uphill road it is for all nations to ‘come together and save the world’. India, the fourth-largest contributor to worldwide carbon emissions, has not only emerged as a key player but also as a voice for developing nations. The world will be watching as it balances its vision of a greener world with its vision of higher economic growth. Much as the conference projected the urgent imperative of corrective action, it also demonstrated the difficulty of achieving collective action that could lead to a durable and effective solution.

    Insights: 303 : An Aspirational ‘new wave’ of India-Pakistan Dialogue

    P S Suryanarayana 6 January, 2016
    The terrorist strike at an Indian military installation early in the New Year has not immediately set the clock back on the positive outcome of the earlier Christmas-Day informal meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan in Lahore. However, the success of the new “comprehensive bilateral dialogue”, if launched by mid-January 2016 as anticipated, is not assured yet, despite the Pakistani military itself having a ‘proxy negotiator’ now. Nor can external stakes in a stable Pakistan-India equation guarantee a settlement between them. For now, there are some signs of a cautious, new resolve for peace on both sides of the conventional divide.


    Insights: 302 : UNHRC Resolution and Sri Lanka’s ‘Domestic Mechanism’: Accountability for Human Rights Violations

    Ayesha Kalpani Wijayalath 22 December, 2015
    Following the recent United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka, the Sirisena Government has embarked on a process of establishing a ‘domestic mechanism’. It is imperative to set up this mechanism without further delay to address both domestic and international concerns over the alleged human rights violations in the country.

    Insights: 301 : Towards a Future-Oriented India-Japan Partnership

    P S Suryanarayana 22 December, 2015
    The Prime Ministers of India and Japan have now signed a Memorandum confirming an iconic agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, leaving for the final stretch a legal scrubbing and ratification of the accord by both countries. They have also strengthened their "Special Strategic and Global Partnership" by enlarging the scope of their economic cooperation, and exploring co-development and co-production in the defence sector. Far from drawing any new battle-lines in the Indo-Pacific region, the latest India-Japan annual summit has reinforced the contours of the existing diplomatic landscape and sent out an implicitly reassuring message to China.

    Insights: 300 : Pakistan: In the Cusp of Changes, Meeting Challenges

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 11 December, 2015
    While the Pakistani military and civilian leaders, so often the opposing forces, now seem inclined for cohabitation at the highest echelons of power, the country's latest move towards a 'comprehensive dialogue' with neighbouring India is a new dynamic of wider regional and global importance.

    Insights: 299 : A Newly-Minted Old Relationship : Strategic Synergy between India and Singapore

    P S Suryanarayana 27 November, 2015
    A full-spectrum relationship has been fashioned during India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Singapore at this time. With Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong extending an extraordinary welcome to Mr Modi, the two countries have been able to showcase a symphony of positive sentiments. The way forward will be keenly watched in the region, including China whose President Xi Jinping paid a strategic visit to Singapore a few weeks earlier.

    Insights: 298 : India’s Light Combat Aircraft Programme: a Costly Delay

    Jayant Singh, Research Assistant at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 19 November, 2015
    The inordinate delays in the indigenous production of India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) have taken a considerable toll of human lives, caused by the malfunctioning of the ‘stop-gap’ foreign flying machines that were deployed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign also lends a new sense of urgency to the LCA programme now.

    Insights: 297 : BJP gets a Drubbing in Bihar

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 17 November, 2015
    The emphatic triumph of the grand alliance, led by Mr Nitish Kumar and Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, in the recent Assembly elections in the eastern Indian State of Bihar marks a political setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had campaigned vigorously, thereby raising the stakes in the polls. The grand alliance was successful due to the formation of a formidable caste coalition and the personal popularity of Mr Nitish Kumar. Mr Modi will have to find ways of mitigating the impact of this defeat on his government's agenda at the centre as well as rethink his party's strategies in the coming Assembly elections.

    Insights: 296:Sri Lanka: Towards a ‘National Purpose’

    Ayesha Kalpani Wijayalath , Research Assistant at ISAS 11 November, 2015
    After the heat and dust of the recent parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka, the accord between the country’s two main political parties for a ‘national unity government’ seems to offer the best chance in decades for politico-ethnic reconciliation among the various communities. But the challenge is to generate a sense of national purpose.

    Insights: 295:Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrence: From ‘Credible Minimum’ to ‘Full Spectrum’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury,Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 11 November, 2015
    A new strategic reality may be in the making in South Asia in the wake of the recent assertion by a top Pakistani official that his country has developed and deployed ‘tactical’ low-yield nuclear weapons to deter any Indian military move against his country. Now, the leaders of the two countries will need to face the challenge of strategic stability in their relations in this emerging context.

    Insights: 294 : The Battle for Bihar

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 10 October, 2015
    While the politics of caste and personalities do seem to be relevant to the elections to the Legislative Assembly in the eastern Indian State of Bihar, with the multi-phase polls beginning on 12 October 2015, the issue of development and good governance could also prove critical. It is in this context that India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been canvassing widely in Bihar in what could turn out to be the country's most significant poll this year.

    Insights: 293 : A Transforming China : The Challenge of the ‘Middle-Income Trap’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury,Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 2 October, 2015
    While China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei has cautioned his country against slipping into the so-called ‘middle-income trap’, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sense of confidence during his recent State visit to the United States signals a different prognosis.

    Insights: 292 : The Patel Agitation and the OBC Puzzle

    Ronojoy Sen,Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 21 September, 2015
    The recent mass political campaign by the Patels in India's Gujarat state for quotas for their caste in government jobs and educational opportunities has re-ignited the national debate on affirmative action for the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Despite a recent apex judicial ruling in favour of a shift from the existing caste-centric determinant of backwardness, the demands by various caste groups for the OBC status may only proliferate in the absence of political consensus on the issue.

    Insights: 291 : Technology, Development and the Role of the State

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 9 September, 2015
    South Asian countries like India and Pakistan had in the beginning placed the State at the "commanding heights of the economy". Later, the State was justifiably displaced from that high pedestal. However, there is a strong case now for the State to play a catalysing role in engineering a technology-driven path of economic growth.

    Insights: 290 : New Cross-Currents in the India-China-Pakistan Triangle

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 2 September, 2015
    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, besides the latest cancellation of an Indo-Pakistan meeting at the level of national security advisors, have once again turned the spotlight on the triangular equation among these countries. In this context, as Mr Xi presses ahead with a connectivity project of singular Sino-Pakistani benefit, China faces two options. It can continue to capitalise on its strategic access to Pakistan, despite Mr Xi’s clearly-expressed concerns over ‘anti-China’ terrorism emanating from there. By this, China may want to keep India off-balance. But Beijing, with its claim of being a non-hegemonic power, can also seek to influence Islamabad and harmonise the triangular equation.

    Insights: 289 : The Quota Movement in Gujarat: Implications for Modi and India’s Democracy

    Subrata Kumar Mitra, Director and Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 2 September, 2015
    The Patel agitation of Gujarat should not be seen merely as a one-issue movement. More than merely an attempt by youthful members of the Patel community who feel they have been denied their just share of jobs and admissions to coveted educational opportunities it is the tip of an iceberg which points towards a much larger problem of equality and the quota system. Its timing, demands, tone and style have ominous implications for the stability of the Modi regime, and for the problem-solving capacity of India’s democratic governance.

    Insights: 288 : Pakistan Reinforces Resolve to Fight Terror

    Sajjad Ashraf,Consultant at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 28 August, 2015
    The latest validation of anti-terror military courts in Pakistan, through a divided but decisive verdict by the Supreme Court, has sparked a debate on the complex issues at stake. However, the people and the Army are likely to support the robust dispensation of justice in terrorism-related cases.

    Insights: 287 : The Stock Market Turmoil and Implications for India

    S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 28 August, 2015
    The Hong Kong and the Shanghai indexes recovered by 2% in early trading on 25 August 2015, after a free fall a day earlier that dragged down indices all over the world. The stock markets in China appeared to continue on a downward trend subsequently that day. The opening (3004) was lower than the closing numbers (3209), but there has been a correction by 28 August. The correction indicates that there is still value in the stocks that are being traded, and that valuations over a one-year as well as a five-year time-frame are still positive. The index was 2217 on 30 August 2014, and 3080 in early trading on 25 August 2015, a gain of over 40%. It is true that the index had reached 5166 on 12 June, a growth of 150%, and has lost substantially since then: but the inherent strength of the Chinese economy is evident from the fact the index is substantially higher than at this point last year.

    Insights: 286 : The GST Imbroglio in India : Political and Economic Costs

    Vinod Rai, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 24 August, 2015
    Political grand-standing on the alleged complicity of a Central Minister and two State Chief Ministers, all belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has stalled the passage of a reforms-linked Constitution Amendment Bill in India's Parliament. To salvage this bill, which is designed to introduce the General Sales Tax (GST) and create a uniform nationwide tax structure, the Narendra Modi Government is exploring various scenarios that might also address the concerns of some parties opposed to this measure. The popular focus, however, remains centred on the economic costs of political disruptions in India.

    Insights: 285: Modi’s Urban Initiatives – a Paradigm-shift?

    S Narayan , a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 31 July, 2015
    A number of new initiatives announced by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi now, with the phased goal of transforming the overall quality of life in the country’s urban centres, have been conceptualised better than his earlier ‘Make in India’ campaign. However, what is required is not just new thinking but also a change in the culture of project implementation. Failing that, the Modi mantra will continue to carry a tinge of uncertainty about it.

    Insights: 284: Trans-Pacific Partnership, India and South Asia

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at ISAS 11 July, 2015
    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will have multiple impacts on India and South Asia, ranging from a short-term effect, such as the loss of preferential access for exports, to the longer-term impact of having to comply with higher quality-standards. The most significant impact, however, can be the gradual isolation of South Asia from a significant part of global trade governed by new rules.

    Insights: 283: India’s Latest GDP Growth Figures: Glaring Macroeconomic Concerns

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economics), ISAS 8 June, 2015
    A close analysis of India’s higher growth rate in the last financial year reveals some disturbing signs of emerging vulnerabilities on both the supply and demand sides of the macro-economy. Stagnant agriculture and the frail health of industry need to be addressed to keep the economy on a steady trajectory.

    Insights: 282: The Modi-Mamata Thaw: Notes on Recent Developments in West Bengal

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 26 May, 2015
    While India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appear to have buried the hatchet in a bid to advance their respective political agendas, a question-mark hangs over the relationship between their political parties at the grassroots.

    Insights: 281: India, and the High Note in China-Pakistan Symphony

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 12 May, 2015
    The latest move by China and Pakistan to fashion an "all-weather partnership" - a nuanced upscaling of their all-clime friendship ÔÇô raises the bar for IndiaÔÇÖs ongoing efforts at holding an all-weather dialogue with Beijing.

    Insights: 280: Economic Drivers of India’s External Engagement Strategy

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 27 April, 2015
    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to France , Germany and Canada marked the continuation of a pattern of external engagement that is now becoming increasingly identifiable by its economic drivers. In less than a year since assuming office, Mr Modi has travelled to more than a dozen countries. Most of these travels hav e been state visits , occasionally interspersed with multilateral missions (e.g. Brazil and Australia in July and November 2014) . 2 In what has been a vigorous and robust engagement spanning across continents and regions, Mr Modi’s travels have generated considerable enthusiasm among the host - country administrations, local media and the resident Indian communities

    Insights: 279: South Korean Investments in India

    Sojin Shin, Research Associate, ISAS 8 April, 2015
    How does Narendra Modi's leadership enhance India - South Korea economic relations? There seem to be several possibilities to build closer tie s between the two economies especially in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors. This paper briefly discusses the highlights of economic achievement , new possibilities, challenges , and suggestions in the realm of trade and investment that the two economies have recently focused on

    Insights: 278: New Neighbourliness in India-Sri Lanka Ties

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 20 March, 2015
    In Sri Lanka, the latest country that India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited in his frenetic foreign-policy forays, he has implicitly addressed the issue of China's influence over the island-republic, besides explicitly assuring its leaders of New Delhi's support for their efforts at national reconciliation. Tracing a trail of Indo-Lankan civilisation-ties, Modi has also invited Sri Lanka to utilise a satellite that India would be launching into space for the benefit of South Asia.

    Insights: 277: Modi and the Indian Ocean: Restoring India’s Sphere of Influence

    C Raja Mohan, Visiting Research Professor, ISAS 20 March, 2015
    For nearly half a century, India’s political approach to the Indian Ocean seemed a well - defined one. It was defined in the wake of the decision in the late - 1960s by Great Britain to withdraw its forces from the east of Suez. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now stepped forward to outline a bold and different framework duri ng his visit to Seychelles and Mauritius in March 2015. The context and the assumptions of Modi’s Indian Ocean policy are fundamentally different from those that guided Delhi from the late - 1960s. Confronted with a definitive moment in the history of Indian Ocean quite early on in her tenure as Prime Minister , Indira Gandhi had rejected the notion of a ‘ power vacuum ’ in the Indian Ocean, expressed concern at new great p ower rivalry in the littoral and asked all major powers to withdraw from the Indian Ocean. She also supported the proposal for the creation of a zone of peace in the littoral and was reluctant to offer security support to other nations. 2 This approach fitted with India’s self - perception as a nonaligned and T hird W orld state.

    Insights: 276: India’s New Budget: Changing Course without Controversy

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 2 March, 2015
    Very few Indian budgets in recent years have been presented in a more favourable backdrop than the budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 28 February 2015. The Economic Survey, presented a day before the budget, portrayed the Indian economy as having hit a ‘sweet spot’ and forecasted an economic growth of more than 8% in the next financial year. It also emphasised that the country was set for ‘big bang’ reforms.

    Insights: 275: Deciphering the AAP’s sweep in Delhi

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 12 February, 2015
    Nobody, not even members and supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had foreseen the party’s stunning victory in Assembly elections. The sweep by AAP – 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly – has virtually no parallel in India’s electoral history. While most exit polls had forecast a win for the AAP not one, including AAP’s internal surveys, had gauged the extent of the victory. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power at the Centre, was crushed with a tally of merely three seats while the misery of the Congress continued with the party drawing a blank. In terms of vote share, the AAP won 54% to the BJP’s 32% and the Congress’s 10%. Indeed, such was the magnitude of the victory, AAP chief and chief minister designate Arvind Kejriwal’s first reaction was to label the huge majority as “scary.”

    Insights: 274 : Sri Lanka’s Transformational Election

    S D Muni, Professor Emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses in New Delhi (India) 13 January, 2015
    Maithripala Sirisena's unexpected victory against his former boss and the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka's presidential election held on 8 January 2015 signifies a major political transformation in the country. The margin of victory, at 3.7 percentage points (51.3% votes for Sirisena against 47.6% for Rajapaksa) may not be considered huge, but it was comfortable and decisive.

    Insights: 273: Divided Verdict in Jammu & Kashmir

    Ronojoy Sen , Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) 9 January, 2015
    More than two weeks after the results of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Assembly elections in India were declared, a government is still not in place in the state. The reason is the nature of the verdict where no party has come close to a majority in the 87-member Assembly.

    Insights: 272: Goodbye Planning, Welcome NITI

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economics), ISAS 7 January, 2015
    From 1 January 2015, the 'Yojana Bhavan' on the busy Parliament Street (Sansad Marg) in Central Delhi sports a new name: NITI Aayog (Commission). This follows the official notification of the Government of India replacing the Planning Commission housed in the Yojana Bhavan by the NITI Aayog, or the National Institution for Transformation of India (NITI) Aayog. The new institution is expected to spearhead economic policy thinking in India by ensuring such policies are evolved in line with India's national strategic interests.


    Insights: 271: Indo-Pak Trade and Political Balance

    Chandrani Sarma, Research Assistant, ISAS 21 November, 2014
    Throughout history, improvement in political relations between nations tends to result in better bilateral trade and vice versa. Take famous examples of neighbouring countries like Brazil-Argentina, France-Germany. Total bilateral trade between Brazil and Argentina is more than US$ 30 billion today. Brazil accounts for the largest share of Argentine imports and Argentina is the third-largest importer from Brazil, behind only the United States and China. These two countries that today share very close ties over trade, culture, and tourism were once at war nearly two centuries ago. France and Germany at war with each other, even before the World wars, decided to let go of enmity in the 1950s. Now, Germany is France's most important trading partner with bilateral trade worth some EUR 161 billion in 2012.

    Insights: 270: Sri Lanka and Europe: Then and Now

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 30 October, 2014
    Sri Lanka, earlier called Ceylon, has been part and parcel of the South Asian sub-continental ethos for thousands of years. It dates back to the epic Ramayana when it was said to be the Kingdom of Ravana who was alleged to have been the abductor of the saintly Sita, the wife of the god-king Rama (Revisionist history now tends to take a more benign view of the Lankan monarch, doubtless coloured somewhat by contemporary religious-ethnic politics). Among the Europeans, the Portuguese were the first to arrive on the Lankan shores, founding Colombo in 1517. The Sinhalese soon moved their capital to the more secure Kandy. Their King in 1638 invited in the Dutch to supplant the Portuguese. This the Dutch accomplished. They also founded the 'Dutch East India Company', mostly manned by their legacy of the mixed race they left behind, the Eurasian Burghers. Apprehensive during the French control of the Netherlands at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and in line with a burgeoning interest in sub-continental India, the British moved in. In 1803 they occupied Kandy, and snuffed out Lankan independence.

    Insights: 269: A New Kind of Partnership: Social Media and Governance in the Modi Era

    Rahul Advani, Research Assistant, ISAS 30 October, 2014
    he day after his “keynote address at the Internet.org summit”2 in New Delhi on 9 October 2014, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the online social networking service ‘Facebook’, met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the possibilities of how and where social media could play a part in the implementation of various government policies relating to health, education, tourism etc. In particular, one of the results of the discussion was the agreement that Facebook would assist the Government of India in its mission of achieving a clean India in five years. Launched on 2 October 2014, the ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) campaign, which aims to reduce littering and improve the state of sanitation in the country, has harped on by Modi recently, including during his recent visits to New York and Washington.

    Insights: 268: India ‘Looking East’ via Military Diplomacy

    Jayant Singh, Research Assistant, ISAS 29 October, 2014
    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first term in office, has taken his proactive style of governance to the foreign office. Recall the Prime Minister’s inauguration ceremony when Modi caught many political commentators off-guard by inviting leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for his swearing-in. Since then, officials at South Block – seat of India’s Ministry of External Affairs – have been kept busy with a series of diplomatic commitments, both in India’s backyard and further abroad. As the new government’s foreign policy agenda crystallises, it appears that military diplomacy has found new footing in the foreign office. New Delhi is keen to strengthen defence relations with “Friendly Foreign Countries”.

    Insights: 267: ‘Make in India’ – The Future of Indian Manufacturing

    Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow, ISAS 29 October, 2014
    India’s new government assumed office over five months ago and the succeeding months have thus far been testimony to some significant announcements by the charismatic Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ‘Make in India’ initiative is one such serious step of the new government. This paper attempts to analyse the initiative in the perspective of India’s current economic challenges and the possible direction that India’s manufacturing sector may take going forward.

    Insights: 266: Strong Showing by BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 24 October, 2014
    The results of the latest Assembly elections in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Haryana have not come as a surprise. Given the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the two states in the 2014 national election, it was expected that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party in both states. But the number of seats won by the party and the decimation of the Congress, which was in power in both Maharashtra and Haryana, surprised many. In Maharashtra, the BJP, which contested on its own for the first time in 25 years, won 123 seats in the 288-member Assembly, up from 46 seats in 2009; in Haryana the jump was even more dramatic for the BJP from 4 out of 90 seats in 2009 to 47 seats. The decline for the Congress was equally steep. In Maharashtra the Congress's seat tally nearly halved from 82 in 2009 to 42 while in Haryana it fell from 40 to 15.

    Insights: 265: Modi’s Major-Power Diplomacy

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 8 October, 2014
    he flurry of summit talks that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with the highestranking leaders of Japan, China, and the United States in September 2014 is likely to determine New Delhi’s place in Asia’s emerging Arc of Power Politics at this moment. This arc has been conceptualised as a confluence of these four countries which have differential interests. Modi’s major-power diplomacy, as evident on this occasion, turned into a balancing act of interacting with Japan and the US, often seen as China’s rivals, in the context of a Sino-Indian military standoff. In the event, Modi’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping acquired the aura of success, with the military standoff ending peacefully.

    Insights: 264 : Indian Economy Looks Up, In a New ‘Start’

    Amitendu Palit 2 October, 2014
    Four months after a new government assumed office in India on 26 May 2014, the country's economy presents an improved outlook. Challenges, nonetheless, remain. This paper examines the macroeconomic developments and the risk to the outlook

    Insights: 263: A New Defining Moment in India-China Dialogue

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 19 September, 2014
    The strategic significance of economic diplomacy pulsates in the Sino-Indian Joint Statement issued on 19 September 2014 following extensive talks between India‟s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad and New Delhi in India. This marks a clear re-configuration of the difficult but dynamic engagement between these two mega-state Asian neighbours, known for their tense eyeball-to-eyeball military , face-off‟, albeit without bloodshed, across the Himalayas in recent years. The reconfigured Sino-Indian engagement is designed to build “a closer developmental partnership” as a core feature of the existing “Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity” in the bilateral sphere.

    Insights: 262: Europe and Pakistan: A Partnership in Progress

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 19 September, 2014
    The European Union is increasingly seen in South Asia as the citadel of 'soft power'. But the way the two regions relate tends to go far beyond. There is a burgeoning political and economic relationship. That is, in many ways, defining their interactions. Pakistan, a country strategically placed in South Asia, is of importance to Europe. This is increasingly becoming evident.

    Insights: 261: Obama’s ‘War on Terror’: A South Asian View

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 19 September, 2014
    For a politician who built his 2008 presidential campaign on a no - war platform, it is a painful decision to reverse a course he has diligently sought to pursue. On 10 September 2014, a day before the 13 th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, American President Barack Obama committed himself to another war. This was done in a televised address to his nation. He made a sober ass essment of the situation created not only for his country but for the entire international community by the new threat from an Islamic extremist movement that had morphed several times since the United States invaded Iraq under the direction of President G eorge W Bush.

    Insights: 260: By-Election Blow for BJP

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 19 September, 2014
    Less than a month after a setback in a round of by-elections in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered greater embarrassment in another set of bypolls, the results of which were announced on 16 September 2014. Of particular significance was the BJP's performance in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) where it won only three out of 11 Assembly seats, 10 of which were earlier held by the party. The big winner in UP was the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) which won eight seats disproving critics who had written the party off. Elsewhere too, the BJP did much worse than expected, losing three out of four seats in Rajasthan and three out of nine seats in Gujarat. The results have come as a surprise since in all three states the BJP had done exceptionally well in the national elections held earlier this year, winning 71 out of 80 seats in UP and completing a clean sweep in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The only real bright spot for the BJP in the latest round of bypolls was the seat it won in West Bengal, making it the first time in 13 years that the party will have a representative in the state Assembly.

    Insights: 259: India’s Consolidating Media: Three Growing Tigers and ‘Generational Roulette’

    Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor, ISAS 24 July, 2014
    The resignation of two of India’s best known journalists from The Hindu, the Chennai-based daily newspaper, in mid-July dramatised changes rapidly reshaping India’s media.

    Insights: 258: Sino-Indian Dialogue: Re-Configuring the Basic Agenda

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 22 July, 2014
    China has outpaced the other major powers in engaging the Narendra Modi - led India on a fast - track . Mr Modi became Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014. Within a few weeks thereafter , Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Modi met at the Brazilian port city of Fortaleza on 14 July 2014 (local time) . I t is noteworthy that the meeting was indeed Prime Minister Modi's first face - to - face 'live' conversation with the chief executive of a ny P5 Member. P5 is the political acronym for the powerful Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States . India aspires to attain the same status .

    Insights: 257: The BRICS New Development Bank: Beginning of ‘New Development’?

    Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 22 July, 2014
    The Wikipedia has a new entry: NDB. The term featured on the Wikipedia within a few hours of its taking birth. This would surely have been one of the fastest entries in the Internet Encyclopedia . For the uninitiated, the NDB is the New Development Bank, formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank. After being discussed for quite a few years, and amidst growing s cepticism that it would never see the light of the day, the NDB was the first ‘un finished’ business the BRICS Heads of State and Government took up in their meeting last week at Fortaleza in Brazil. The NDB was formed with an initial authori sed capital of US$ 100 billion and an initial subscription capital of US$ 50 billion.

    Insights: 256: Modi Government’s First Indian Budget

    S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 15 July, 2014
    As days pass, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is seen to be increasingly defensive about the Narendra Modi Government’s first Budget. Commentators have spoken about continuity of the previous U nited Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government’s thinking, lack of big -bang reforms agenda, a plethora of schemes that do not appear to be fully funded, and the lack of a clear articulation of vision. Corporate leaders complain that the spectre of retrospective taxation has not been lifted. There is no clear focus for manufacturing or for tackling inflation, t wo of the more important worries of the Indian economy

    Insights: 255: Pakistan’s Anti-Terror Offensive: The Zarb-e-Azb Operation

    Shahid Javed Burki, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, ISAS 20 June, 2014
    The long-awaited – and several-times postponed – an ti-terror military operation in Pakistan’s North Waziristan began on Sunday, 15 June 2014. The announcement that the operation had been launched first came from the military, not the civilian administration. “On the direction of the government, the Armed Forces of Pakistan hav e launched a comprehensive operation against the foreign and local terrorists who are hi ding in sanctuaries in North Waziristan. The operation has been named Zarb-e-Azb ”, said the statement issued from the Army headquar ters in Rawalpindi”. 2 Azb was the name of the sword used by Prophet Muha mmad in various battles associated with the early spread of Islam. Zarb mea ns “to hit”.

    Insights: 254: Signs of India under Global Re-Focus

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 13 June, 2014
    A flurry of quick new glances at India from different sections of the international community reflects a surge of interest in a country freshly under Narendra Modi’s leadership of anticipatory assertiveness. The re-emerging importance of India is evident from at least four new developments – the Chinese President’s Special Envoy Wang Yi’s talks with Mr Modi in New Delhi on 9 June 2014; the fleeting but firm focus on India at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in late-May and early-June; the unusual presence of several South Asian leaders at Mr Modi’s prime ministerial inauguration on 26 May; and earlier US President Barack Obama’s invitation to the new Indian leader to visit Washington. It is now up to India to make the best of this renewed global attention by focusing on the country’s economy and diplomacy. And the current signals from New Delhi do indicate that such priorities have been recognised. Moving forward, strategic stability in India and its neighbourhood is possible.

    Insights: 253: US Trade-Aid Balance-Implications for Pakistan and the Region

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 10 June, 2014
    In Pakistan’s early development stages, from the early-1950s to well into the late-1960s, economic growth was considered important. The strategy followed was influenced by the Harrod Domar model. It was one of promoting rapid industrialisation under the ownership and control of the rising capitalist class, with assistance from the government at home, and friendly foreign states. It was presumed that the benefits of growth would ‘trickle down’ to the more depressed sections of the community. In the words of Dr Mahbubul Huq, the Pakistani planners believed that “it is well to recognise that economic growth is a brutal, sordid process. There are no short-cuts to it. The essence of it lies in the labourer producing more than he is allowed to consume for his immediate needs, and to invest and re-invest the surplus thus obtained”. The formulation of detailed development plans, with specific output targets and carefully designed investment profits, has often been a necessary condition for the receipt of bilateral and multilateral foreign aid.

    Insights: 252: Pakistan: Military versus the Media

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 4 June, 2014
    Pakistan's government headed by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has had deal to with a variety of problems in the first year of his third term in office. These relate to the development of a political order which could define the role of Islam and that of the military in governance. A new battle front opened up for this administration as it was nearing the completion of its first year. This was the result of an assassination-attempt on a well-known TV anchor on 19 April 2014. Hamid Mir of Geo, a popular TV channel, was the target of some assassins-to-be. He was fired upon and injured as he was going by car to the Karachi studio of his employer. Geo is by far the most popular cable channel in Pakistan. It is watched by about one-half of those in the country who get their news and information from this particular medium. Soon after the attack, Amir Mir, the anchor's brother and also a journalist, went on the air and accused the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and its Director General, Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam, for planning and executing the assassination attempt

    Insights: 251: India’s New Neighbourhood-Test

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 29 April, 2014
    India’s political landscape is likely to be dominated by a new leader, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in ways that the international community is yet to decipher. For now, as Mr Modi assumes the mantle of Prime Minister after a landslide electoral triumph, India’s neighbours might look out for signs whether he would pursue a Hindutva agenda (centred on the ‘supremacy’ of the country’s Hindu-majority) contrary to the policypriorities he articulated during the recent poll campaign. India’s neighbours are also likely to watch whether he will implement the BJP’s pledge to “revise and update” India’s nuclear security doctrine and make it more ‘credible’ and ‘practical’. However, Mr Modi’s leadership credentials in the macro-economic domain of an Indian province, and the gradual and the emergence of provinces as stakeholders in the country's foreign policy, can also become factors in his diplomacy in India's neighbourhood and beyond.

    Insights: 250: Time for a ‘Reset’ of Pakistan-India Ties

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 April, 2014
    For long Pakistan's relations with India, its sibling, were based on two considerations: Pakistan's claim over Kashmir and its perception that there were powerful elements within the Indian establishment who, even almost seven decades after Partition, were not reconciled to the division of the Indian subcontinent. What have been called the ideas of Pakistan and India are based on very different definitions of nationhood by the founding fathers of the two states. For India, its future depends on its ability to accommodate dozens of different religious, linguistic and social groups within one nation. Pakistan, on the other hand, was created to provide a homeland for the Muslims of British India.

    Insights: 249: Modi Triumphs in India’s National Elections

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 April, 2014
    The results of the general elections in India were a surprise to most people. While most opinion polls had predicted a victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that it leads, not even BJP members had anticipated the scale of the party's victory. The BJP alone has won 282 seats and the NDA 336 out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament). Two things stand out in the verdict. This is the first time in 30 years that a party won a majority on its own; this is also the worst-ever showing by India's grand old party, the Indian National Congress, which won a mere 44 seats, 70 less than its previous all-time low in 1999.

    Insights: 248: Prospects for West Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 April, 2014
    For over three decades beginning in 1977, West Bengal presented a fairly settled picture in terms of electoral politics. In election after election, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI[M])-led Left Front kept winning at the national, state and local levels. This began to change from 2008 onwards culminating in the defeat of the Left Front in the 2011 West Bengal state elections.

    Insights: 247: Economic Despondency and Indian Elections

    Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 April, 2014
    Economic issues are expected to be decisive in determining the outcome of India's 16th general election. Most opinion polls point to the depressing economic situation in the country and its adverse impact on the prospects of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the elections. The economy, according to most analysts, might actually be the main villain in taking the Congress down, if it actually does.

    Insights: 246: India’s New Gesture to Sri Lanka: From Diaspora Politics to Realpolitik

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 2 April, 2014
    India’s latest decision to abstain from voting – in the United Nations Human Rights Council – for a “comprehensive investigation” of the situation in Sri Lanka signifies a potential shift in New Delhi’s neighbourhood diplomacy. While the first principles of Westphalian interstate relations and a degree of geopolitical pragmatism govern this action, it is too early to foresee whether and, if so, how this will play out in India’s foreign policy after the April-May general election this year.

    Insights: 245: Youth and Aam Aadmi Party

    Rahul Advani, Research Assistant, ISAS 28 March, 2014
    In the space of just over a year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in India has already witnessed a meteoric rise to power, having transformed from a civil society movement into a full-fledged political party with more than a million members. Its stunning performance in the Delhi Assembly elections in December 2013, securing 28 seats, just four less than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was all the more impressive, considering that it was the first-ever election for the party. Since then, the party's journey has been more than a little shaky. Ending its 49 day-stint as a minority government in Delhi was party leader Arvind Kejriwal's resignation from the position of Chief Minister. Whether this move signals a more troubled fate for the party's future remains to be seen (though an NDTV opinion poll found '49 per cent' of its respondents saying that 'Mr Kejriwal's resignation has improved his party's prospects in the Lok Sabha elections', due in April-May 2014).

    Insights: 244: CPI-Bonds in India: A Troubled Take-off

    Chandrani Sarma, Research Assistant, ISAS 13 March, 2014
    On 23 December 2013 the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced the Inflation National Savings Securities-Cumulative (IINSS-C), or CPI-indexed bonds. The deadline to buy these bonds was 31 December 2013 and they could be availed of at any State Bank of India (SBI) branch, associate banks, nationalised banks, the three private banks (HDFC, ICICI, and AXIS) and Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL). The range for investment is between Rs 5,000 and Rs 500,000. The interest rate on these bonds is linked to the combined-CPI (Base 2010 = 100) and comprises two parts: the fixed rate (1.5%) and the CPI inflation rate, based on 3-month lag CPI, which will be compounded with the principal on a half-yearly basis. The principal amount will be adjusted with the CPI inflation rate and then interest is calculated on this adjusted principal using the coupon rate of 1.5%. The tenure is fixed at 10 years and the full amount will be paid only at the time of maturity.

    Insights: 243: Power-Rivalry in Asia: New Arms Race and Lessons from Ukraine

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 13 March, 2014
    Asia was originally a Greek construct, dating back to the classical times, beyond Alexander the Great. It is vast, varied, complex and diverse. There is no discernible common thread that binds it together. Still, it is seen to be a continent on the rise. This perception is helping to lend it a common identity. However, the fact remains that one does not usually feel the sense of being an Asian, as one does of being an American, a European, or an African.

    Insights: 242: Indo-Russian Defence Trade: A Recipe for Revival

    Jayant Singh, Research Assistant, ISAS 20 February, 2014
    Defence trade has been the cornerstone of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership since the 1950s. Today, with Russian military sales to India steadily declining, the defining aspect of their bilateral relationship is threatening to become a heavy burden for both partners. Furthermore, Russian concern over this loss of market share is fast giving way to discontent. Recent reports have the Russians complaining that Indian military tenders are designed to the benefit of some and to the detriment of others, specifically Russia.

    Insights: 241: The Road Ahead for Aam Aadmi Party

    Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 20 January, 2014
    There were very few who had foreseen the stunning debut of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the Common Man's Party in the 2013 state elections in Delhi, where it won 28 of the 70 seats and nearly 30 per cent of the votes, and its subsequent formation of government. But now it is accepted that AAP, which grew out of the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by activist Anna Hazare and was officially formed as a party in end-2012, has brought about a churning in Indian politics the likes of which have not been seen in recent years.

    Insights: 240: Sino-Indian Panchsheel and Japan’s Overture to India

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 17 January, 2014
    With 2014 designated as the “Year of Friendly Exchanges between India and China”, the two mega-state Asian neighbours will commemorate later this year the 60th anniversary of the enunciation of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (Panchsheel). Interestingly, however, New Delhi’s diplomatic calendar in the early part of January 2014 has been dominated by Japan’s overtures to India in the defence domain and by the crisis over the treatment of an Indian diplomat in the United States. Moreover, China, despite speaking of the upcoming Panchsheel anniversary, has emphasised the primacy of Sino-Russian and Sino-American relations (with India not seen in this hall of primacy). So, a relevant question is whether China’s bid to fashion a “new model of major-country relations” with the US will overshadow the mantra of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in the Chinese discourse. Regardless of whether this happens, India and China can seek a mutually beneficial ‘new normal’ in their relationship.

    Insights: 239: Showcasing of Indian Cinema: Global Success of Dhoom3

    Rahul Advani, Research Assistant, ISAS 17 January, 2014
    Long considered one of India's biggest cultural exports, Hindi films have been able to penetrate global consciousness in ways that most tourism ministries could only dream of. They are one of the most popular forms of entertainment not only within South As ia but also in countries outside with large South Asian D iaspora populations such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Even in countries as diverse as Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Iran, Hindi films have garnered strong following among lo cal audiences through their unique brand of entertainment. However, the highly romantic depictions of love, ostentatious wedding sequences and melodramatic family feuds that such films are known and loved around the world for may become less and less visib le in the future. Hindi film studios are beginning to create and market their films in an increasingly Hollywood - like way in the hope of building bigger international audiences and generating even greater revenue from overseas releases.

    Insights: 238: Employment in India – Latest Data and Implications

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 10 January, 2014
    In 2013, the National Sample Survey Organization of India released key results of a large sample survey relating to employment and unemployment. These surveys are normally carried out once in five years, and the last survey was carried out for the years 2009-10. Normally, the next survey would be due in 2015-16. There are some interesting data that have been revealed in the survey for 2009-10.


    Insights: 237 : India and China: Marking Paths on the Space Highways

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 12 December, 2013
    India's ongoing mission to Mars and China's project of placing a rover on the Moon's surface by mid-December 2013 have raised speculation about an emerging space race between these two Asian neighbours. In reality, the space programmes of the two increasingly science-savvy countries have had different trajectories. However, both New Delhi and Beijing have often spoken against militarisation of space and sought to harness space-related applications for economic or social development at home. These commonalities may influence not only the discourse but also the actions of these two countries in the longer term, depending on the future course of global politics.

    Insights: 236 : India’s State Elections: A BJP Sweep and New Politics of Urban India

    Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS, Ronojoy Sen is Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 12 December, 2013
    The results of four state elections, announced on 8 December 2013, emphasise demographic and social changes that are affecting India more rapidly and profoundly than at any time since independence in 1947. They also foretell very deep problems for the Congress Party which leads India’s coalition government and which must go to the polls before May next year. It’s only in the small Northeast state of Mizoram, where the results were announced on December 9, that the Congress managed its sole victory.

    Insights: 235 : Afghan National Security Force: Upcoming Challenges and Implications for South Asia

    Jayant Singh, Research Assistant at the ISAS 3 December, 2013
    The ongoing drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan foreshadows the culmination of what has been the longest US military engagement since Vietnam. This ‘retrograde’ process, which is due for completion towards the end of 2014, will ultimately see the US spend anywhere between US$ 4 trillion and US$ 6 trillion on conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a major portion of this sum still pending payment. In an era of budget cuts, sequesters, debt-ceiling and government shutdowns, these conflicts have added US$ 2 trillion to the United States’ national debt and burdened the nation with long-term financial obligations. Given the high cost of engagement, the US and its coalition partners would want to protect their legacy in Afghanistan and safeguard it from reversal following the drawdown in 2014.

    Insights: 234 : Threat of Indian Mujahideen: The Long View

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza is Research Fellow at the ISAS, Bibhu Prasad Routray 28 November, 2013
    The explosions in Patna in India on 27 October 2013, targeting a political rally, once again brought the Indian Mujahideen into media focus. Far from being a localised group trying to exploit local grievances, the Indian Mujahideen is fast emerging as both a formidable group within India and also an example for terrorist formations elsewhere.

    Insights: 233 : A New Way to Manage an Old Dispute

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 6 November, 2013
    China and India have now travelled the proverbial extra mile towards each other to proclaim that a qualitatively new ‘Panchsheel’ spirit is attainable in their chequered relationship. When ‘Panchsheel’ – the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence – were enunciated by China and India, acting in concert in 1954, there was not much asymmetry between their respective national strengths. Today, while both China and India are nuclear-armed space powers, China overshadows India in a big way in the economic domain and is ahead in a number of aspects of military preparedness. It is this contrast in time and political space that brings the latest Sino-Indian Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) into the futurist focus. This aspect of the Sino-Indian summit held in Beijing on 23 October 2013 stands scrutiny as a sign of renewed statesmanship. But the hopeful sign must still pass the test of realpolitik until the two countries resolve their basic border dispute.

    Insights: 232 : Back to the Basics in Indo-Pak Puzzle

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 14 October, 2013
    The issue of inviolability of the India-Pakistan Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is once again in prime focus ÔÇô this time, in the context of the latest meeting between the Prime Ministers of these two South Asian neighbours. While not being entirely clouded by the Indian media discourse on a ÔÇÿSecond KargilÔÇÖ, the new India-Pakistan move for peace and tranquillity along the LOC requires much sunshine diplomacy from both the civil and military officials of the two sides.

    Insights: 231 : Manmohan Singh Meets Obama: Firming up Indo-US Strategic Partnership

    S D Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 8 October, 2013
    India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama had their third summit at the White House in Washington on 27 September 2013. This would probably be their last summit, unless Dr Singh gets a third prime ministerial term after the Indian general elections expected to be held by April-May 2014. President Obama made a special gesture to make Dr Singh's visit memorable. He organised a working lunch at the White House - only second such lunch so far by him for a visiting head of state/government. And, he personally walked down the White House portico ignoring the set protocol to see Dr Singh off. US First Lady Michelle Obama also extended a special courtesy to Dr Singh's wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, by hosting her over tea at the White House while the two leaders were engaged in official deliberations.

    Insights: 230 : A Common Economic Recipe for India and Pakistan

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 October, 2013
    Both India and Pakistan are passing through delicate political times. India is getting ready to hold the next general election no later than the spring of next year when the term of the current government expires. Pakistan, having held elections in May 2013, has a new government in place. In both cases the government will be tested in the field of economics. How the performance of the two governments will be judged is a question that is being debated in the two countries. The Indian Government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has chosen to allow its performance to be determined essentially by the prices that people have to pay for the items of everyday consumption. Inflation has been relatively high in recent months. The new Pakistani Government, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, seems half-inclined to treat the level of prices as an important test for his ability to restore economic health to the country. In adopting these policy decisions, the two governments are making serious political mistakes. Their electoral appeal will be determined by the rates of growth of their national economies and not by the modest changes in the level of prices.

    Insights: 229 : Ordinance Confusion in Election Season

    Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS, Ronojoy Sen IS Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 4 October, 2013
    It is festival season in India, but it's more than that. Election season is in the air. You can hear it, see it and almost taste it. Five state elections are due before the end of 2013, and the big one, the national general election for 543 seats to the Lower House of Parliament, is due by May next year. These elections are awaited with rare anticipation, because in spite of widespread cynicism, there's a sense that changes in government are in the offing and that a lot of careers hang in the balance.

    Insights: 228 : A ‘Power-Sharing’ Moment in Sri Lanka

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 30 September, 2013
    The outcome of the latest elections to Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council can indeed catalyse the search for an equitable political settlement of the troubled ethnic equations within the framework of a truly united country. For this to happen, the Sri Lankan leaders across the ethnic divide face the formidable task of harmonising President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s agenda of ‘political empowerment and reconciliation’ with the Tamil National Alliance’s focus on parity (as different from secession) .

    Insights: 227 : Karzai’s Diplomacy of Hopes and Wishes

    Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant at the ISAS 12 September, 2013
    Speaking to reporters before leaving Kabul for Islamabad towards the end of August 2013, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai sounded resigned when he said: “I will travel to Pakistan hoping to get a result out of it. I’m hopeful, but not sure, I will only go with hopes; and wish they materialise”.

    Insights: 226 : India’s Food Security Bill: Grave Digger or Game Changer?

    Amitendu Palit 4 September, 2013
    The much - debated National Food Security Bill, 2013, was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha – the Lower and Upper Houses of the Indian Parliament – on 26 August 2013 and 2 September 2013 respectively. The Bill is the latest legislation in a series of measures (e.g. Right to Information (RTI) Act, Forest Rights Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)) aiming to establish rights - based economic governance in India for achieving inclusive growth. The objective of the Bill is to legally entitle 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population to a minimum supply of foodgrains at subsidised prices. With around 800 million people expected to receive subsidised food, the programme is arguably one of t he largest targeted food security schemes in the world

    Insights: 225 : Musharraf’s Indictment: Going through the Act?

    Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant at the ISAS 30 August, 2013
    In a country where a military officer could not be charged for a traffic offence, a Pakistani court has now indicted former military strongman General Pervez Musharraf in the case relating to the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

    Insights: 224 : Pakistan and the New Ethos of Muslim Middle Class

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 August, 2013
    Revolutions confuse and confound even those who bring them about. They also puzzle those who watch them unfold from some distance. This is certainly the case with the rapid changes occurring in the Muslim world. The change is not only affecting the Middle East but also the Muslims in South Asia. And it is being brought about by the rise of the middle class. Economists have been studying for quite some time the role the middle class plays in shaping and reshaping economic systems and structures. It is now the right moment for other social scientists, in particular those who study politics, to catch up with them.

    Insights: 223 : India-Pakistan Dilemma: To Talk or Not to Talk

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 August, 2013
    August 2013 was a bad month for India-Pakistan amity. Sixty-six years ago that month British India was bifurcated into two independent and sovereign countries: India and Pakistan. That partition was accompanied by unspeakable violence. As the writer Sadat Hasan Manto poignantly describes in his remarkable short story, ‘Toba Tek Singh’, also utter and inhuman mindlessness. The feelings that occasion generated were bred of deep-seated distrust. Thereafter, it led to several bloody wars between the two nations. To this day the strength and power of those negative sentiments have not fully abated. However, from time to time silver linings do appear amidst the dark clouds. One such example lay in the immediate aftermath of Nawaz Sharif’s assumption of office as Prime Minister of Pakistan in June this year. But, sadly, like others before it, it was soon to be engulfed in the gathering storm. To the olive branch that Nawaz Sharif then held out, the reaction of his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, was positive. For a brief shining moment, hope appeared to have surfaced, but only to be submerged once again in a sea of mutual recrimination.

    Insights: 222 : Pressures on the Indian Rupee

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 August, 2013
    The Indian rupee fell to an all-time low of close to 64 to the US dollar on Tuesday 20 August 2013, and the Indian media as well as well as the analysts have been extremely critical of the policies announced by the Government of India. The Government, on its part, is pointing to the exit of funds across all emerging markets as US yields are set to rise, and is putting all the blame on external factors.

    Insights: 221 : The Changing Moods on the Sino-Indian Front

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 2 August, 2013
    The goodwill call by a Chinese naval hospital-ship at India’s Mumbai port on 8 August 2013 has followed the Sino-Indian agreement on “an early conclusion of negotiations” for a border defence cooperation pact. These two developments have occurred in the context of a serious episode of military standoff in April-May and the Chinese Premier’s subsequent visit to India. These changing dynamics in the Sino-Indian relationship are explored in the light of China’s military prowess and India’s concerns.

    Insights: 220 : John Kerry’s Islamabad Visit: A Possible Thaw?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 August, 2013
    With a new government in place in Islamabad and with the United States needing Pakistan’s help in winding down its operations in Afghanistan, there is some hope that relations between the two countries can be restored to some kind of normalcy. This was the expectation that took the US Secretary of State John Kerry on a two-day visit to Islamabad on 30-31 July 2013. Judging by the statements made by the two sides, it appears that the downward slide in relations that began in January 2011 has been arrested but much remains to be done. This paper explores what was achieved during the Kerry visit and what kind of trajectory the two countries are likely to follow as they move forward.

    Insights: 219 : Reading the West Bengal Panchayat Poll Results

    Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 August, 2013
    Elections to the panchayat - comprising the three tiers of village, block and district of a state in India - often go unnoticed at the national level. That the recent panchayat elections in West Bengal, which were won convincingly by the governing Trinamool Congress Party, made news is due to several reasons.

    Insights: 218 : Birth Pangs of ‘Telangana State’ in India

    S Parthasarathy 2 August, 2013
    The creation of a new southern Indian state of Telangana, consisting of 10 districts, has at last been announced. The new state is to be carved out of the 23 districts in the present state of Andhra Pradesh. It has taken over 50 years for the Telangana demand to be conceded, perhaps the longest time taken in similar cases in post-colonial independent India. It will be the 29th state in the Indian Union.

    Insights: 217 : Biden’s Visit to India: Pushing the Asia-Pacific ‘Pivot’

    S D Muni 29 July, 2013
    Biden’s Visit to India: Pushing the Asia - Pacific ‘Pivot’ S D Muni 1 The visit by the US Vice - President Joseph R Biden , Jr to India in July (22 - 25) 2013 may be seen in the context of the US efforts to reinforce its commitment to the “pivot”/ “ rebalancing ” strategy for the Asia - Pacific region. The reinforcement of this commitment is required to address both the domestic doubts as well as external anxieties. Within the US , while there is widespread bipartisan support for the strategy, doubts ling er about its direction and the capability to implement it. On 23 July , four members of the US Congress addressed a letter to the newly appointed National Security Advis o r Susan Rice asking for an “inter - agency” review of the “Asia - Pacific Strategy”, “in or der to better define the ends - ways - means of the Administration’s strategic objectives in the region”. 2 Within Asia - Pacific region, many countries have anxieties if the US would remain fully committed to this strategy in view of it s budgetary constraints un der the proposed ‘sequestration’ and moves to work out strategic understanding with China

    Insights: 216 : Prospects for Border Trade in Mizoram

    Laldinkima Sailo, Research Assistant at the ISAS 25 July, 2013
    In his recent budget speech, India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram said: “Combining the Look East Policy and the interest of the Northeastern states, I propose to seek the assistance of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to build roads in the Northeastern states and connect them to Myanmar”.2 Prior to this, New Delhi had expressed interest in building the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, which would go a long way in the economic integration of India’s Northeast with Southeast and East Asia. This may, however, be a while in the making; and the benefits that would accrue to India’s Northeast from such projects are yet to be articulated. If implemented, Mr Chidambaram’s plan could have a significant impact on the border regions of the Northeast, particularly in areas where border trade flourishes.

    Insights: 215 : South Asia: A Story of Key Development Indices

    Riaz Hassan is Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS, Ishraq Ahmed was until recently a Research Assistant at ISAS 25 July, 2013
    South Asia is now home to almost one-quarter of the world's population. Consequently, the development trends in South Asian countries have not only regional but also global ramifications. In particular, the spectacular economic growth in India, the largest South Asian country, over the past two decades has made it a global economic power-house. The Indian economy is currently the third largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP), after the United States and China. What are the developmental consequences of this surging economic growth for India's 1.2 billion people? Has economic growth benefited the living conditions of its citizens?

    Insights: 214 : India: A Destination Nightmare for Tourists? Implications of Sexual Violence

    Rahul Advani, Research Assistant at the ISAS 10 July, 2013
    In the past few weeks, there were two significant rape cases involving foreign tourists in India. The first featured an American tourist who was gang-raped on 4 June 2013 by a group of men in a hill resort in the town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh. The 31-year-old woman was leaving the Vashishth Temple site at around one oÔÇÖclock in the morning that day. After failing to get a taxi to take her back to her hotel, she accepted a ride from a group of men who took her to a wooded area where they raped and robbed her. Subsequently, three men have been arrested in connection with the incident.

    Insights: 213 : Countering Left-Wing Extremism in India: Conceptual Ambiguity and Operational Disconnect

    Bibhu Prasad Routray and Shanthie Mariet D'Souza is Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 July, 2013
    The inability to craft an effective national policy to deal with the surge of left-wing extremism (LWE) is a subject of intense policy debate and mounting public concern in India. A short-sighted counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy, an apathetic political class, an unresponsive state machinery, bureaucratic inertia, problems of coordination (between the centre and state governments)and the growing disconnect between a prospering and an impoverished India, have been flagged as some of the factors that contribute to the lack of an effective strategy and the near-unassailability of the extremists. At the heart of such inadequacies, however, is the persistent conceptual ambiguity regarding the nature of the movement and the threat it poses to the Indian state. Authorities have been periodically compelled to revisit their strategies after each successful extremist attack. And yet, a comprehensive and unified national strategy providing a long-term solution to LWE remains a far-fetched goal. The 25 May 2013 extremist attack in the state of Chhattisgarh provided yet another opportunity to rethink and reset the COIN strategy. Whether the new strategy would end the ambiguity and explore alternate mechanisms for conflict resolution, however, remains to be seen.

    Insights: 212 : Bangladesh: Evolving Political Situation

    Imtiaz Ahmed 5 July, 2013
    Bangladesh is in the midst of contradictory pulls: whereas economic indicators point to robust development, polarisation and violence are threatening the sustainability of democratic politics. The moot question now is whether such contradictory pulls can be reconciled for the sake of greater economic development and the institutionalisation of democracy. Although the national election is due in less than eight months and there is no sign of a compromise between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), yet there is hope that the tenure of the current regime will end not with a ÔÇÿhardÔÇÖ but rather ÔÇÿsoftÔÇÖ landing. Let us have a closer look.

    Insights: 211 : Election Year in Bhutan – Litmus Test of Happiness?

    Siegfried O Wolf 2 July, 2013
    On 23 April 2013, the people of Bhutan went to the polls to elect a new upper house, or National Council (NC), for the second time ever in their country’s history. This marked the beginning of the national parliamentary election process, which will conclude before the end of July this year after the second round of polls for the lower house – the National Assembly (NA) – is held. The NA was dissolved on 20 April and has to be reconstituted within 90 days. Based on a first assessment, one can state that, besides some weather-related concerns and hurdles, the NC elections were held relatively smoothly. Most importantly, they were not disturbed by any ‘politically motivated’ violent incident of significance or by undue interference by any state institutions or other actors. In short, the elections were free and fair.

    Insights: 210 : Regional Security Cooperation in South Asia: The China Factor

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 July, 2013
    In this vast swathe of the Asian region, China and India are two global ‘mega states’, home to a third of the world’s population. They are both rising stars in the contemporary international firmament, particularly against the backdrop of America’s and the West’s perceived ‘elegant decline’, as Robert Kaplan would have us believe. Theirs is a relationship that could largely define the politics of our age. It is an acknowledgment of the importance of this relationship that caused India to be the country that Premier Li Keqiang chose to make his first foreign visit.

    Insights: 209 : The Prospects for Modi’s Prime Ministerial Ambitions

    Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor at ISAS, Ronojoy Sen is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 June, 2013
    What does the rise and rise of Narendra Modi mean for India? The question consumes vast amounts of Indian newsprint and electricity as it rockets around the newspaper-reading, all-a-twittering public. There are at least three views of Modi, the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. One is that he is India's best hope for substantial economic and political change. A second is that he is an ardent communalist and the tool of the worst sorts of global capitalism. A third view is agnostic about how good or bad he is, but holds that his reputation makes him too divisive to win a national election. On 9 June, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appointed Modi as chairman of its national election committee to prepare for next year's general elections. This move suggested that the BJP would later project Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

    Insights: 208 : A Tale of Two Leaders

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 June, 2013
    Veteran political leader L K Advani’s resignation last week from even the primary membership of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India and the withdrawal of that resignation a couple of days later made national news. This came close on the heels of the appointment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of the BJP’s Election Campaign Committee. The ruling Congress party has refrained from commenting about these developments, stating that these are internal party matters of the BJP. Internally, Congress should be quite pleased at the dissension in the ranks of the BJP and at the announcement by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that his party would not like to align with the BJP in the forthcoming general election, if they projected Narendra Modi as the leader. Nitish Kumar has made a call for a third front, free of BJP and the Congress, which has had only lukewarm support so far.

    Insights: 207 : President Karzai’s Visit to India: Setting Policy Markers for post-2014 Afghanistan

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza 3 June, 2013
    President Karzai’s three-day official visit in May 2013 to India with a wish list of military equipment has reignited speculation regarding an increased Indian military presence in post-2014 Afghanistan. Amid frayed Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, difficulty in the negotiations of a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States, waning international interest in the Afghan war and dwindling financial assistance to the conflict-ravaged country, uncertainties loom large on the prospects of peace and stability in Afghanistan. President Karzai who, prior to the 2014 drawdown of international forces and the presidential elections in Afghanistan, is continuing his effort to bring a negotiated end to the war and reclaim the sovereign status of his country and thereby mark his legacy, is seeking help from a trusted ally and friend. While much of what happens in the coming months will test the intent and capacity of New Delhi to come to Karzai's aid, it will also define how India perceives its role in post-2014 Afghanistan and how prepared it is to confront the future of Afghanistan in pursuance of its national interests and strategic objectives.

    Insights: 206 : An Unusual Sino-Indian Summit and After

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 3 June, 2013
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's recent state visit to India, 19-22 May 2013, was neither a classical charm offensive in diplomacy nor a post-modern crisis-busting political journey. What he did achieve was to place the political and economic "concerns" of space-faring China and India at the centre-stage of their discussions. This has raised the possibility of a 'new model' of Sino-Indian dialogue, driven by a sense of optimism after their recent military standoff eased. At another level, though, there is still a lot of circumspection, if not also scepticism. India, for its part, must begin addressing its asymmetric equation with China across the entire spectrum.

    Insights: 205 : The Maoist Attack in Chhattisgarh

    Ronojoy Sen is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS, Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor at ISAS 31 May, 2013
    The ambush of a convoy of cars returning from a political rally and the murder of 27 people on 25 May 2013 in Chhattisgarh state in central India brings together various threads that make up "the Maoist movement" that has been an intermittent feature of rural life for 50 years. The list of victims makes this clear. Among the dead were the leader of the Congress Party in Chhattisgarh state, Nand Kumar Patel, and Mahendra Karma. Karma was the architect of the Salwa Judum, a controversial and bloody movement of anti-Maoist vigilantes begun in 2005 and later declared illegal by the Indian Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, Karma was high on the Maoists' hit list. Among the wounded is V C Shukla, 83, from an old Congress family and the reviled Minister of Information and Broadcasting during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 1975-7 "emergency".

    Insights: 204 : India-China Talks: Full-Scope Security is Potential Issue

    P S Suryanarayana 10 April, 2013
    China’s new leader Xi Jinping has called for steps to “deepen” “military and security trust” in Sino-Indian relations. In his first meeting with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Durban on 27 March 2013, the Chinese President struck a cordial and upbeat note. Reciprocating these sentiments, Dr Singh suggested that a “joint mechanism” be set up to protect the rights of lower riparian India in the context of China’s ongoing efforts to harness waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra). The economic logic of such a ‘mechanism’, if set up, will supplement the political logic of the existing forum of Special Representatives who are trying to settle the Sino-Indian border dispute. In addition, India and China are already engaged in overall economic dialogue. In panoramic strategic terms, therefore, a potential Sino-Indian agenda focused on economic and military concerns can help address full-scope security issues. Full-scope security, as a term being conceived in political diplomacy, is adapted from the idea of full-scope safeguards in civil-nuclear diplomacy.

    Insights: 203 : Drug Patents in India: Turf Battles

    Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 April, 2013
    The debate on India’s intellectual property (IP) regime and its implications for pharmaceutical innovations and generic drugs has come into sharp focus following the Supreme Court of India’s recent judgement on the global pharmaceutical major Novartis’s appeal for patenting and exclusive marketing of Glivec in India. Glivec is a drug administered on patients suffering from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), a rare form of blood cancer. The Court judged that Glivec does not satisfy the patentability criteria of ‘enhanced efficacy’ as mentioned in Section 3(d) of the Patents Act of 2005 and hence Novartis cannot be granted patent on Glivec in India. The decision has been widely hailed as a victory for domestic manufacturers, particularly generic drug producers. Generic drugs are those that are introduced after patents expire on their original formulations. Novartis’s patenting of Glivec in India would have implied that Indian producers could not have produced generic versions of the drug, which they are able to do now.

    Insights: 202 : Asia and President Obama’s Second Term

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 April, 2013
    How will Asia fare during President Barack Obama’s second term as President? The change in the national security team in Washington would have some relevance but under President Barack Obama the real decision-making is done at the White House. It may, therefore, not matter much that a new cast of characters is now in place to conduct United States’ foreign policy. At the same time, the regime will function without much friction since those in senior national security positions are of the same mind as President Obama. The president has gone from a “team of rivals”2 he recruited for his first term to a team of the likeminded for his second term. Implementing basic policy decisions should, therefore, proceed smoothly. This paper explores what the new players are likely to bring to their desks and how America might, in President Obama’s second term, attempt to shape the world.

    Insights: 201 : The Expanding Shadow of States over Centre in India

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 April, 2013
    Recent developments in Tamil Nadu politics over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue have highlighted the pressures that regional issues can bring to bear on national politics. There have been agitations in colleges and universities against the alleged human rights violations by the Sri Lankan Army towards the end of the operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. There are posters in Chennai and in other towns in Tamil Nadu, alleging that Prabakaran's son was shot down in cold blood, and demanding a commission of inquiry.

    Insights: 200 : Zero Dark Thirty and US-Pakistan Relations: A Hostile Future?

    Riaz Hassan, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 27 March, 2013
    Since its release in December 2012 the film Zero Dark Thirty has received critical acclaim for dramatising a complex and traumatic event in recent American national life as a cinematic narrative. Its portrayal of political violence and the role of torture ÔÇô euphemistically called ÔÇ×enhanced interrogation techniquesÔǃ ÔÇô is vivid, arresting, confronting and horrifying. For its cinematic achievements the film received five Oscar nominations including the best film of the year.

    Insights: 199 : Reading between the Lines of Indian Budget

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 March, 2013
    Indian media, including the television news channels and the English-language press, have analysed and dissected the Indian Budget 2013-2014 down to its last ligament, and, at the end of it, decided that it was not as good as it should have been nor as bad as it could have been. Relevant data will help dispel such ambiguity.

    Insights: 198 : Expanding India-ASEAN Connectivity

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 February, 2013
    The last decade has witnessed a sea change in the relationship between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Several significant economic and political developments have contributed to this.

    Insights: 197 : Social Safety Nets in Bangladesh

    Ishraq Ahmed, Research Associate at the ISAS 6 February, 2013
    Spending on social programmes to alleviate poverty and address the overall economic needs of the vulnerable segments of the population has been an integral part of the Bangladesh Government’s strategy to tackle poverty. The social programmes/social protection programmes include components of social insurance, labour market policies and social assistance. Social Safety Net Programmes (SSNPs) in Bangladesh – which fall under the aegis of social assistance programmes – are a set of public measures to protect those who are vulnerable to various social and economic hardships arising from significant declines in income and welfare due to loss of cultivable land, crop failure, unemployment, sickness, maternity and old age or death of income-earning members. Up until the 1990s, spending on social safety nets had constituted less than one per cent of GDP. Spending has been increasing in recent years due to a consistent GDP growth of about five per cent a year. Annual expenditure on safety net programmes amounts to around US $1.64 billion, which is approximately 1.6 per cent of the GDP as of 2011.

    Insights: 196 : Bangladesh Enters Election Year: Perspectives on Polls and Politics

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 17 January, 2013
    The Bangladeshi is an intensely political person. It is his, or, as is somewhat more apt in Bangladesh given the gender of its leadership, her historical heritage. This extrapolation is easily derived from behaviour-pattern dating way back to Bengal's past. Unsurprisingly, therefore, elections in Bangladesh generate considerable heat and dust! This January the nation of nearly 160 million entered its election year. The government, a 14-party coalition led by the Awami League (AL) and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has now completed exactly four years in office. The timeline for election would be anytime this year starting October. In parliamentary systems, it is the government's prerogative to call for elections even before the expiry of its term (in this case, five years).

    Insights: 195 : Putin in New Delhi: Re-booting Traditional Ties

    S D Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 8 January, 2013
    Indo-Russian relations have changed drastically as a result of changing global dynamics after the end of the Cold War and in response to the imperatives of rising domestic and regional aspirations of both the countries. A number of bilateral issues have also weighed adversely on the momentum of Indo-Russian relations, though both countries realise that they have much to gain from maintaining a robust bilateral engagement and a balanced global partnership. President Putin's visit to India to mark the 13th institutionalised annual summit of the two countries was a firm step towards re-energising India-Russia relationship.


    Insights: 194 : Political Challenges in Post-War Sri Lanka

    Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council, Sri Lanka 20 December, 2012
    The centralisation of political power, and failure to devolve power to the ethnic minorities, accentuated the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka that led to three decades of internal war. Although the war ended in May 2009, more than three and a half years ago, Sri Lanka has yet to make the transition to ethnic reconciliation and to a political solution. As it has been pointed out by scholars in the field, political stability in pluralistic societies is difficult to maintain without internal power-sharing mechanisms or systems of governance which are responsive to the aspirations of ethnic minorities. The monopoly of political power by representatives of the ethnic Sinhalese majority amounting to over 75 per cent of the country's population was a major contributory factor to the internal war that pitted the government against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

    Insights: 193 : India-China Border Parleys: New ‘Signs’ of Walking the Talk

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 14 December, 2012
    The problem-solving mechanism of negotiations between the Special Representatives of India and China over their intractable boundary dispute has stayed course since 2003 when the process was agreed upon. Now, 50 years after the Himalayan war between these two major Asian neighbours, they have reaffirmed commitment to seeking a fair, reasonable, and mutually acceptable settlement of the basic dispute. Right now, there are two simple but significant signals that China and India, increasingly recognised as rising powers on asymmetric trajectories, are beginning to walk the talk. One, the two countries have not allowed a current issue of dissonance to disturb the peace process. Two, they have compiled a report on the progress made in their negotiations so far.

    Insights: 192 : FDI in Multi-brand Retail in India: Signs of New Resolve

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 December, 2012
    In September 2012, the Government of India announced several economic policy reform measures that included a move to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. In the same announcement, it relaxed norms for foreign direct investment in the aviation sector, allowing international airlines to invest in domestic peers and cleared a slew of other reform-oriented measures ÔÇô an increase of FDI in some broadcasting services.

    Insights: 191 : Rebalancing-Obama 2.0: India’s Democratic Differential

    S D Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 26 November, 2012
    US President Barack Obama renewed his dedication to the ‘Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy’ during his successful re-election campaign. The contours of this strategy have started getting into shape with his first post-election foreign visit to the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on 19 November 2012 and his visits to Myanmar and Thailand days earlier. An emerging aspect of this strategy is the deference for democratic partnerships. This deference was visibly and loudly projected during the first-ever US presidential visit to Myanmar where President Obama acknowledged the ongoing democratic reforms there and added that “this remarkable journey has just begun and has much further to go”. This deference for democracy has also been significantly underlined on a relatively quieter but confident note in the declared US “full embrace of the rise of India”. At the Cambodian summit, President Obama, responding to ‘congratulations in person’ from India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said: “India is a big part of my plans”.

    Insights: 190 : The World after Great Power Withdrawals

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 October, 2012
    Will the United States’ pullback from Afghanistan, currently planned to be completed by the end of 2014, deeply affect the world? What would be its impact on the Muslim world, including the Muslim-majority countries of South Asia? These two questions are important for the making of public policy across the world because of the massive changes that are likely to occur once the United States has left the scene. Major large-power pullbacks have in the past led to the birth of new economic and political global orders. There is no reason why the same would not happen again this time.

    Insights: 189 : Environmental Challenges in South Asia

    Shafqat Kakakhel 16 October, 2012
    The prosperity of the South Asian region, home of the glorious Indus civilisations and cradle of Buddhism, and its ability to be part of the Asian renaissance of the 21st century are predicated on the prudent management of its fragile and excessively exploited ecosystems and on its ability to cope with the multifaceted challenges of climate change. Sound governance in each South Asian country, peace and cooperation with neighbours, and an enabling global context are the essential prerequisites of a sustainable, prosperous future for South Asia.

    Insights: 188 : ‘Green on Blue’: Clash of Colours in the Afghan Coalition

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 September, 2012
    Afghanistan has proved to be the quagmire that has sunk many an invader. Getting in is not always easy, and getting out even more difficult. This is also now the experience of the United States and other foreign forces. The ‘green on blue’ attacks are symptomatic of the existing complexities. The plan to leave behind a large Afghan National Army, also without assured requisite funding upon Western withdrawal in 2014, is not a good one. The chances are, as before, and as has happened in the case of Libya, the Army will dissolve into militias on ethnic and tribal lines, exacerbating intra-mural conflicts. It will be more worthwhile spending the available resources on ‘peace-building’ projects, some of which have already been tested, than on a non-existent sense of central, or Kabul-based, security.

    Insights: 187 : The Great ‘Exodus’: Violence in Assam and its Aftermath

    Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate at the ISAS 6 September, 2012
    The recent (and continuing) spate of violence in Assam and the purportedly related scare of retaliatory attacks on those from the northeast, living in different parts of India, have drawn unprecedented media attention towards the region. This may not be the type of attention that the region has yearned for but nonetheless presents an opportunity to put the crucial issues afflicting the region into perspective. The series of events also brings to light some pan-Indian issues that affect a much larger constituency. This paper analyses the background to the violence itself, the ‘exodus’ of northeast-origin citizens back to their home states and what all these mean for India as a whole.

    Insights: 186 : Clouded Sunshine Over India’s Economy

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 September, 2012
    India’s local-currency bond yields are at 8.21 per cent, an all-time high. Yields rise if there is increase in supply of Government paper, indicating that Government is borrowing more—a sign of fiscal stress. Inflation risks and monetary stance affect yields, with lower inflation indicating higher bond prices and lower yields. In Asia, yields on Indonesian paper used to be very high, but are now around 6 per cent, based on better macro-economic management, a greater openness to the foreign exchange markets and lower inflation. Moody’s now rates Indonesia as investment grade, S&P one notch below. By contrast, ratings for Indian debt have been falling over the last year.

    Insights: 185 : Multi-State Groupings Shaping the Global Scene: Case Study of European Union and Bangladesh

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 29 August, 2012
    This paper examines how evolving multi-state groupings such as the European Union are likely to shape international relations of the future. In doing so it analyses relations between one such grouping, the EU, and a state-actor, Bangladesh in South Asia, eventually extrapolating some more-generally applicable conclusions. Europe's relations with South Asia are undergoing a process of renewal. They date back very far, when Alexander the Great in 323BC knocked at the doors of India and established the Bactrian kingdoms in today's Afghanistan and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa in Pakistan. Two thousand years later the Europeans returned as traders. Their flags followed their trade. Lord Clive's victory at Plassey through a combination of dare and deceit over Nawab Sirajuddowla of Bengal began a period of British imperial rule that ended when India (and Pakistan) made their 'tryst with destiny', in Nehru's words in August 1947. It had left a mixed taste in the mouth. However, connections continued.

    Insights: 184 : Peace Held Hostage in Sri Lanka

    Gloria Spittel, Research Associate at the ISAS 29 August, 2012
    The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) published its annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report in June 2012 which ranked 158 countries on their state of peacefulness. Sri Lanka was the largest mover on the index, ranking 103, up from 130 in the 2011 report. This paper situates this GPI ranking in the current socio-political environment in Sri Lanka, showing that the GPI ranking is not indicative of a sustainable trend and that 'peace' in itself is a problem for certain pockets in Sri Lanka.

    Insights: 183 : Is South Asia Condemned to Backwardness?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 August, 2012
    A blog, “Reflections on India”, written by Sean Paul Kelley, an investment banker-turned travel writer, went viral on the internet. Posted on 7 August 2012, Kelley warned: “If you are Indian or of Indian descent I must preface this post with a clear warning: You are not going to like what I have to say”. Then he went on to write about “filth, squalor and all around pollution” he saw on his most recent travel to the country. Observing this and much more, he went on to suggest that there was “lack of respect for India by Indians”. It is the last observation that is worth some attention since it points to a feature of the South Asian culture which stands in the way of this region’s sustained economic development and social improvement. This paper attempts to shift the development discourse back to the impact of culture on economic growth and modernisation.

    Insights: 182 : India-ASEAN Trade Profile

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 14 August, 2012
    There has been a significant growth in bilateral trade between the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and India in the last decade. Between 1993 and 2003, the growth rate of this trade was 11.3 per cent per annum, and this has grown to 21.3 per cent per annum in the last decade (2001-2010). Over this period, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows have amounted to US$ 18.3 billion from ASEAN countries into India. In 2010 alone, the inward flow into India was US$ 3.4 billion.

    Insights: 181 : X-Factor in Sino-Indian Detente and Deterrence

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) ISAS 10 August, 2012
    The X-factor that makes China view India more seriously now than at any time before is the rising interest in both Washington and New Delhi for reciprocal defence cooperation. There is, of course, no direct evidence, at the official levels, to suggest that the United States and India have already begun to act in concert against China. At the same time, the latest 'classified' recommendations of India's Task Force on National Security, led by Naresh Chandra, have stirred a debate. In this evolving milieu, the recent offer by the US to help India upgrade its military capabilities - in qualitative terms - is, potentially, a new factor in New Delhi's long-cherished calculus of strategic autonomy. India's moves towards the US in this context will be watched closely by the larger international community.

    Insights: 180 : India’s Cabinet Reshuffle: Paucity of Talent, Plethora of Challenges

    Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 August, 2012
    Just as India was reeling from its worst power outage in recent times affecting some 22 states and millions of people, the country’s Power Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, was appointed Home Minister on 31 July 2012. If some saw this as a baffling promotion, the equally significant event the same day was the return of P Chidambaram to the Finance Ministry from Home. Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily was given the additional charge of Power.

    Insights: 179 : Pakistan-India Detente: A Three-Step Tango

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 8 August, 2012
    Pakistan-India détente is moving at a reasonable pace, with steps being taken that should bring a bit closer the long-separated economies of South Asia’s two largest countries. The process started once Pakistan had accepted the Indian position that it would be more practical for Islamabad and New Delhi to focus on economic and trade issues, putting on the back-burner some of the more contentious differences such as Kashmir. Now three additional steps have been taken in this dance by the two countries. They are moving from the slow fox trot to the brisk pace of tango. The three steps are the invitation by India to Pakistan to resume cricket matches between the two countries, starting this fall with a visit to India by the Pakistani side. A formal invitation by President Asif Ali Zardari to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan and attend the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 28 this year. The third decision comes from India that allows individual Pakistanis and Pakistan firms to invest in India. This paper examines what these steps may achieve for the two countries.

    Insights: 178 : Afghanistan After America: Possible Post-Drawdown Scenarios

    Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS, Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 8 August, 2012
    Mullah Omar’s face was much unlike that of Helen of Troy. Yet it too was one that caused the launch of a thousand ships – airships to be more precise. Like the besieged city in Homer’s ‘Illiad’, Afghanistan of the present was swarmed by invaders, not by the Greeks, but as some see them, by their modern counterparts – the Americans and their allies. As in the Trojan War, 10 years down the line the War Council met, as it must have also in Mycenae of ancient Greece. This time the venue was Chicago in the United States, home of the modern-day mighty Agamemnon, President Barack Obama. In Chicago, as it had happened in the epic tale, the invaders finally decided to call it a day. They agreed to depart after a decade of unwinnable and unrewarding warring. This time, too, a Trojan horse would be required to be left behind. But a problem had arisen. On that mythical occasion the jubilant but unwary Trojans had dragged the huge wooden horse inside their city walls, not heeding the warnings of that perceptive priest of Poseidon, Laocoon, who had beseeched them, in vain, not to: ‘I fear the Greeks’, he had bemoaned, ‘even though they come bearing gifts’! The Trojan counterparts of today, the Afghans, drawing, not perhaps from the lessons of the ancient Classics but from many practical experiences, had become suspicious of the potential contemporary horse.

    Insights: 177 : A Worrisome Blackout in India

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 August, 2012
    On 30 and 31 July 2012, India was hit by a massive power outage that affected three major electricity grids covering the north, east and north-eastern regions. The outage affected over 700 million people. This was arguably the most serious power outage incident in the country in over 50 years. The southern grid, which covers transmission to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry (formerly, Pondicherry), escaped the brunt of this blackout, as it is isolated from the north, east, north-eastern and western grids.

    Insights: 176 : ASEAN-India Relations

    Ambassador See Chak Mun is Adjunct Senior Fellow, ISAS 2 August, 2012
    ASEAN-India relations intensified when the Narasimha Rao government initiated India's Look East Policy in the early 1990's. Initially the engagement was mainly economic, but the Vajpayee government added a security dimension to it. The 2004 agreement on an ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity envisaged a multi-faceted co-operation programme, but the implementation of the Action Plan has not been fully satisfactory. For the ASEAN-India relations to be elevated to a higher level such as a strategic partnership, there should be new impetus which should come from (a) shared political and security interests, (b) increase in the economic stakes and inter-dependence, and (c) greater public understanding and awareness of the historical and cultural links between India and ASEAN.

    Insights: 175 : Pranab and the Future of Indian Presidency

    Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 2 August, 2012
    In May 1969, the President of India died, and a story began that continues to unfold in New Delhi today. The tale involves the office of the presidency of India, the new occupant of that office, Pranab Mukherjee, and the descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru. It's a story with an unpredictable future and a twisty history. Mr Mukherjee was sworn in as India's 13th President on 25 July 2012, but his career in the Congress Party and his connections with the Nehru family took off in the fateful monsoon months of 1969.

    Insights: 174 : Singapore Symposium 2012 Papers-1 Pakistan Should Go Asian

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 27 July, 2012
    Given Pakistan's current chaotic situation in both politics and economics, it would be rather presumptuous to suggest that the country could act as the glue for binding different parts of Asia, a large continent which is now on the move. Several analysts have suggested that the 21st century will be the Asian century; that the extraordinary combination of demography, the role of the state, and recent economic history will take Asia forward. The 19th century was the century of Europe and the 20th that of America. This was now the turn of Asia. According to this line of thinking, Asia could, in the not too distant future, overtake both Europe and America in terms of the respective sizes of the economies of these three continents. There is enough dynamism in Asia for several scholars to be comfortable with the thought that such a repositioning of the continental economies is inevitable. However, the pace of change could be quicker and the result more definite if the various Asian countries, large and small, could work together and become a well-connected economic entity with strong inter-country links. Such an outcome could become possible if there is the political will to act on the part of Asia's large countries. In this context Pakistan's role could be critical even when its own economy is very weak at this time.

    Insights: 173 : Women’s Quiet Revolution in Pakistan

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 July, 2012
    United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to New Delhi and India’s diplomatic activism in June 2012 have given rise to some clear signs of a possible re-balancing of India-US equation in the military and political domains. The paper tracks these signs and draws attention to a fine diplomatic nuance. India and China are still engaged in defence and strategic dialogue while New Delhi and Washington are raising the possibility of military and strategic cooperation. Both India and the US are, nonetheless, seeking to hedge against China – without challenging it – in the present state of flux in global affairs.

    Insights: 172 : Re-Balancing of India-US Equation

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 29 June, 2012
    United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to New Delhi and India's diplomatic activism in June 2012 have given rise to some clear signs of a possible re-balancing of India-US equation in the military and political domains. The paper tracks these signs and draws attention to a fine diplomatic nuance. India and China are still engaged in defence and strategic dialogue while New Delhi and Washington are raising the possibility of military and strategic cooperation. Both India and the US are, nonetheless, seeking to hedge against China - without challenging it - in the present state of flux in global affairs.

    Insights: 171 : Northeast India: Trade and Development Prospects

    Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate at the ISAS 25 June, 2012
    The idea of building roadways, railroads and a multi-modal transport corridor for linking India through its Northeast states to Southeast Asia is significant in many respects. This paper examines the current state of development in Northeast India and its economic prospects should the idea of building connectivity infrastructure of this kind come to fruition and if trade relations with Southeast Asia were to flourish. Discussed, in particular, is the readiness of the region to open up. Also highlighted are some key issues that need to be borne in mind if Northeast India is to witness development and improve standards of living.

    Insights: 170 : NATO and Afghanistan: Beginning of an Orderly or a Messy Process of Withdrawal?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 June, 2012
    The leaderships of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries were pushed by domestic considerations to lay out a programme for withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan at a more accelerated pace than they had originally envisaged. There were both political and financial reasons for America’s rush to the door. The war was no longer regarded by the citizens as “necessary”. This change in sentiment could not be ignored by the country’s leadership especially when President Barack Obama faced stiff opposition in the run-up to the November 2012 presidential contest. America’s European allies were even less enthusiastic about the war. They were too engrossed in solving their growing economic problems to focus much attention on a difficult and distant land. And the cost of continued engagement was way beyond what America and Europe could afford. President Obama told the press after the conclusion of the NATO summit in Chicago, held on 20-21 May 2012, “We can pull our troops back in a responsible way and we can start rebuilding America and start making some of the massive investments.... in America here at home.”2 But such a neat outcome does not seem to be on the cards even after the NATO summit in Chicago. This paper suggests that the “great pullout” is likely to be a messy affair and not as desired by the United States and its allies. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States will remain engaged in one way or other in Afghanistan for years to come. Its pullout will not be as complete as was that of the Soviets.

    Insights: 169 : India-Myanmar Ties: The Trade Perspective

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 June, 2012
    The recent visit by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Myanmar had as much to do with bilateral trade as with diplomacy and security. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Myanmar firmed up to 5.1 per cent in 2009 after a decade of anaemic growth. 2010 was even better, at close to 5.5 per cent. Growth in the neighbouring countries, especially those that import gas, also helped to boost these GDP figures. Nominal GDP has risen from US$ 16.7 billion to an estimated US$ 35.2 billion in 2010. There are also large projects that have been committed by foreign investors in power, petroleum and infrastructure that are likely to contribute to Myanmar's economic growth in the next few years. Natural gas reserves are estimated to be 2.54 trillion cubic metres, and Myanmar is emerging as a major supplier of gas to its neighbours. It has also large deposits of metals, minerals and gems, and accounts for 90 per cent of the global production of rubies.

    Insights: 168 : Power Shortages in India’s Southern Region: Challenges for Growth

    S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 June, 2012
    The power industry is one of the largest and most important industries in India as it fulfils the energy requirements of various other industries. India has the world’s fifth largest electricity generation capacity and it is the sixth largest energy consumer accounting for 3.4 per cent of global energy consumption. In India, power is generated by State utilities, Central utilities and private players.

    Insights: 167 : How Goliath Slew David at the United Nations: A South Asian Perspective

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 June, 2012
    Recently five smaller member-states of the United Nations – Singapore, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Jordan, and Liechtenstein – describing themselves as ‘Small Five’ or ‘S5’ sought to have a resolution adopted in the General Assembly. This was a modest effort at restraining the behaviour-pattern of the larger and more powerful Permanent Five or P5 of the Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France – mainly with regard to their unrestricted exercise of veto powers. It failed. This was caused by a calibrated opposition from the major states and others opposed to Security Council reforms, particularly with regard to its expansion. India and Pakistan among South Asian nations played out their traditional rivalry, with India supporting the ‘S5’ initiative and Pakistan opposing it. There were lessons to learn from the story for the South Asian ‘others’ as well. The paper argues that sustained and persevered efforts would be necessary to bring about changes in a system naturally resistant to them, and a setback is not, and must not be seen as, a defeat.

    Insights: 166 : Pakistan’s Judicial Renaissance: A New Phase?

    Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 June, 2012
    This paper considers the relationship between the judiciary and government of Pakistan in light of the recent developments involving the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister, which culminated in a historic conviction of the Prime Minister for contempt of court. Pakistan’s judiciary, historically seen as relatively passive in political matters, has witnessed a new phase. A strong judiciary is clearly vital in any democracy, and it will be important for the key institutions and players to find the right balance to ensure the success of Pakistan’s return to democracy.

    Insights: 165 : State of Bangladesh Economy: A Prognosis for the Future

    Ishraq Ahmed, Research Associate at the ISAS 23 May, 2012
    Against the backdrop of the global economic slowdown, the Bangladesh economy has performed strongly over the past few years. Despite the fallout from the Euro debt crisis still contributing to an uncertain economic environment, the Bangladesh economy has pursued accommodative monetary and fiscal policies. However, if the global economic slowdown is much more prolonged than the current forecasts indicate, the impact on Bangladesh is expected to be adverse. The economy has persevered so far in the face of global recession, but the domestic challenges are manifold with respect to soaring inflation, import-export imbalances, devaluation of the currency, a slow growth of remittances, increasing budget deficit and government borrowing. This paper provides an overview of the Bangladesh economy with respect to its fiscal, monetary and trade performance. The aim is twofold - to assess the current state of the economy, followed by an appraisal of Bangladesh's economic outlook and opportunities ahead.

    Insights: 164 : Hillary Clinton Visits India: Understanding the Unstated

    S. D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 15 May, 2012
    United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited India on the third leg of her Asian ‘farewell’ tour after discussions in China and Bangladesh. This short visit to India was important in three aspects. It reemphasized the US resolve to promote its strategic partnership with India in the wider context of Asia-Pacific region. It brought into public domain the persisting differences between India and the US on two critical issues of US priorities in relations with India i.e. isolating Iran and creating a ‘level playing field’ for the American companies in India’s civil nuclear energy field. Thirdly, the visit also underlined the emerging dimensions of the US approach towards India and Asia. In India Mrs. Clinton appeared comfortable in directly broaching the sensitive issues of India’s federal and regional (in relation to immediate neighbours) affairs with the provincial leadership. And in Asia, the US, appearing to have failed in coping with the imperatives of China’s rise and assertion, is trying to hedge through engagement in ‘mini-laterals’; triangular consultations involving other Asian majors and China’s regional competitors like India and Japan.

    Insights: 163 : Bhutan: Shades of ‘Shangri-La’ in a Haven of ‘Happiness’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 May, 2012
    Bhutan conjures up in the mind’s eye idyllic images of a ‘Shangri-La’. In line with this fairy tale perception, it has sought to propagate the concept of Gross National Happiness as a serious index for measuring development. However, there is today a realization in that country that idea-label needs to be matched by performance. Changes are afoot in its politics, economics, and international relations. Cautious reforms on these fronts including modernizing initiatives are rapidly rendering this tiny Kingdom into ‘everywhere else’. So, while ‘Shangri-La’ does not exist in reality, myths continue to remain a driver of human destiny, as the example of Bhutan amply demonstrates.

    Insights: 162 : Pakistan’s Political Transition: One More Step Forward

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 May, 2012
    On 26 April 2012, Pakistan took one giant step forward in its long struggle to erect a political structure supported by a legal system in which citizens have full confidence. That will happen when the people’s elected representatives can exercise full authority and when there is respect for the rule of law. On that day, as helicopters hovered over the imposing structure that houses the senior judiciary, the Supreme Court decided to hold Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani guilty for having committed contempt of court. The much anticipated verdict by the court was delivered not by a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who has shaken up the Pakistani political system on more than one occasion. This time the sentence was read out by Justice Nasirul Mulk, presiding over a bench of seven men. (No woman is a member of the 19-man Supreme Court.) How will this verdict affect the political development of Pakistan? This “Insight” maintains that the decision to hold the prime minister to account – for contempt of the court – has enormous implications for the development of the Pakistani state.

    Insights: 161 : Change of Guard at Pakistan’s ISI: Some Implications

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 March, 2012
    In Pakistan, appointments to senior staff positions in the military often tend to acquire disproportionate political importance. This is also the case with the incoming head of the awe-inspiring Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s principal spy agency, Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam. He assumes office in March 2012. In direct contradiction of Clemenceau’s famous dictum, Pakistan is milieu where war is considered too important to be left to the civilians! The matrix that Islam will operate on is in constant flux, nationally and regionally. It will not be his responsibility to formulate state policies but given the prevalent culture of governance in Pakistan, he will certainly be in a position to influence, and even at times to shape, them. His contribution to strategy can be positive and constructive, depending on how dexterously he is able to play his cards in a challenging and scenario.

    Insights: 160 : Pakistan’s Baluchistan Problem

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 March, 2012
    A resolution tabled by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Congressman from California and with recent history of work against Pakistan, has suggested that the United States should lend support to the demand by some nationalists from Baluchistan to obtain independence for their province. These nationalists have been fighting the Pakistani state for decades. While the tabling of the resolution will not affect the American policy towards Pakistan, it has focused the attention of many in Pakistan on the country’s Baluchistan problem. The Baluch account for only 2.5 percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million. However, they live in a sensitive area. Their province has borders with Afghanistan and Iran. A deep water port has been developed at Gwadar on the province’s Mekran coast that may provide access to the sea to China’s landlocked provinces in the country’s west. This paper suggests a number of steps that can be taken to address Baluchi resentment. Some of these have already been taken. These include the devolution of authority to the provinces by amending the constitution and by a near-doubling of the share of the province in the “divisible pool” – the resources mobilised by the federal government for use by the provinces. More needs to be done to bring in the Baluchi population in Pakistan’s expanding political space.

    Insights: 159 : State Polls and National Echoes in India

    Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 March, 2012
    The Congress was the biggest loser in the Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections. Its poor showing has come as a blow to the Congress' prime ministerial aspirant, Rahul Gandhi, who led the election campaign in the state. It also showed up a campaign that did not send out the right message as well as the poor organization of the party at the grassroots. Though the big win of the Samajwadi Party in UP confounded analysts, it won on an anti-incumbency wave where the voters saw it as the only viable alternative to form a stable government. The national implications of the poll result are likely to be more assertive regional parties and policy gridlock.

    Insights: 158 : Quran Copy Burning in Afghanistan and the US ‘Exit’ Strategy

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 March, 2012
    The latest violent protestation in Afghanistan over the burning of copies of the Holy Quran has a demonstrative effect. It has yet again brought to light the nature of the international intervention and the challenges of stabilising this war-torn country. While on the surface the incident appears to be a religiously motivated episode, a growing sense of anxiety and seething anger among a segment of the Afghan populace over other issues is being exploited by the Taliban and its allies in the wake of this incident. More importantly, this episode has raised important questions on the possibility of early international withdrawal and prospects for an effective transition of authority into the Afghan hands.

    Insights: 157 : Bangladesh and Paschim Banga: ‘Why this Kolaveri Di?’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 March, 2012
    Over the past few years Bangladesh and India have been painstakingly developing their bilateral relations. There was indeed a possibility that thereby a model of good neighbourliness could be created worthy of emulation in the rest of South Asia. Suddenly the appearance in the scene of the new Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal in the Indian Union appears to have thrown a spanner in the works. All developments in the area seem to be hostage to her perception of the self-interest of her State, vis-à-vis both New Delhi and Dhaka. As a result, the burgeoning relationship between Bangladesh and India – already characterised by a complex mix of reason and passion and subject to the vicissitudes of domestic politics in both countries – stands threatened. Much hard work and deep innovative thinking by both sides will be needed to successfully overcome the newly created impediments.

    Insights: 156 : China and the United States: Will the US visit by Xi Jinping make some difference?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 February, 2012
    China and the United States have become ever interdependent since then President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to Beijing 40 years ago. In February 1972, Nixon met with Chairman Mao Zedong and set into motion a relationship that led to their interdependence. But the relationship lacks trust. Starting this fall, Beijing will begin the process of transferring political authority to a new generation of leaders led by Xi Jinping, currently the country’s Vice-President. He will take over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China when the party meets for its five-yearly conclave later this year. In March 2013, he will become the country’s president, replacing Hu Jintao in both positions. He will remain in office for ten years, from 2013 to 2023. During this time, Washington will complete the process of shifting its attention from Europe to the Pacific, a change in policy focus that was announced by President Barack Obama on several occasions in 2011.

    Insights: 155 : Pakistan and the Not-So-Distant Thunder!

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 February, 2012
    Pakistan, in many ways, is at a crossroads. The essay identifies the key players, and analyses the impact on the national politics of the major domestic and external actors. It seeks to discern the fundamental national spirit and values of the people of that country. It argues that it may well be that the main challenge is now up to the courts, to point to the appropriate path for the nation to take at this juncture.

    Insights: 154 : New Dynamic in China-India Dialogue

    P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 7 February, 2012
    The new Working Mechanism on border affairs, which India and China have now set up, is designed to ensure that their disputed boundary will be a zone of peace and tranquillity. A follow-up question is whether China and India can muster political will to resolve the basic border dispute itself. For now, the imperative of shared political will remains elusive. While China and India have demonstrated 'Copenhagen Spirit' on a global issue like climate change, the Pakistan factor has not disappeared from their bilateral atmosphere. In these circumstances, there are signs of India exploring neo-nonalignment with reference to China and the United States of America.

    Insights: 153 : Uttar Pradesh goes to Polls

    Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 February, 2012
    A seven-phase election will be held in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India's largest state, between February 8 and March 3. The election is important from the national perspective primarily for two reasons. One, it might bring about a change in the federal coalition governing India with one of the two largest parties in UP, the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Samajwadi Party, finding a place in the federal government in return for Congress support in the state. Two, it will be a test of strength for Rahul Gandhi's leadership. UP elections are notoriously difficult to call, but what can be said with some certainty is that no party is likely to get a majority on its own leading to a scramble for post-poll alliances.

    Insights: 152 : Panic in Pakistan: The Makings of a Meltdown?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 15 January, 2012
    Pakistan today is in the throes of a massive political impasse. There is a divisive dichotomy that places the Supreme Court and the Army on one side, and the civil government and the Parliament on the other. But all players have eschewed any unconstitutional cutting of the Gordian knot. This piece argues that the resolution to the apparently intractable conflict probably lies in early elections, consented to by all parties, and examines, briefly, the future prospects in that context, of the rising star in the Pakistani political firmament, Imran Khan.

    Insights: 151 : Life at 60 in Japan-India Relationship

    P. S. Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 14 January, 2012
    The newly maturing bonhomie between India and Japan is patently designed to create a non-military level-playing field in facing a competitive China in the integral geopolitical space of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This is evident in the spirit of the latest understanding between Japan and India on rare earths and civil nuclear cooperation. This can also be seen as a factor driving the new US-Japan-India trilateral dialogue.


    Insights: 150 : The Durban Climate Platform

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 29 December, 2011
    The 17th international climate conference was held in Durban, South Africa in November- December 2011 and was saved from collapse at the last minute. There were two contentious issues. One, whether the treaty being negotiated to replace the one adopted in 1997 at Kyoto, Japan would apply to the developing world as well. The Kyoto Protocol had exempted the developing world from the caps it envisaged on the emission of carbon dioxide. Two, how binding should the treaty be. The main objections to making the new treaty binding came from China and India who were now the first and third largest emitters of carbon dioxide. But this time around smaller developing countries parted company with these two Asian giants and sided with the developed world to ask for an enforceable climate control treaty. The Durban conference concluded with the promise to negotiate a new document by 2015.

    Insights: 149 : Imran Khan’s Political Rise

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 December, 2011
    Imran Khan a former cricketer who, in 1992 won the cricket World Cup for Pakistan2 has emerged in the last couple of months as a political phenomenon in a highly troubled country. He has thrown an open challenge to the governing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded four and a half decades ago by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, another populist leader who created the same kind of excitement as Khan is doing today. The PPP is currently headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, the most unpopular leader in the country’s history. The Pakistan economy has performed poorly under Zardari, the country’s politics is in disarray, the military leadership is at odds with the civilian government, relations with the United States (US) have reached possibly the breaking point. Islamic extremist groups continue to operate in the country and on the border with Afghanistan. As Bill Keller, former editor of The New York Times wrote for his old paper, ‘if you survey informed Americans, you will hear Pakistan described as duplicitous, paranoid, self-pitying and generally infuriating’. Can Khan halt the country’s descent and prevent it from becoming a failed state? Hundreds of thousands of his well-wishers and supporters – mostly young in a very young population – have certainly pinned their hope on the former cricket star. As Khan reminded his admiring audience in Karachi at a massive rally on 25 December that he may not have been the best cricketer in the world, but he won his country the World Cup; he may not have been the most experienced philanthropist, but he built the country’s best cancer hospital; he may not be a educationist but he has built the only private sector university in rural Pakistan. Would he now succeed in this new enterprise – saving Pakistan from disaster—he asked his Karachi audience? The large crowd came back with a roaring ‘yes’.

    Insights: 148 : India and China’s 12th Five Year Plans: A Comparison of Changing Priorities

    Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 6 December, 2011
    China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP) was released in March 2011. The 12th FYP sets direction for national development for the 2011-15 period aiming to restructure the economy by encouraging domestic consumption. The Planning Commission of India, too, released ‘An Approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017),’ a paper that sets the tone for the 12th FYP paper next year. India’s approach paper calls for ‘faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth’. The two documents set out the key indicators of directions and changes in the development philosophy of governments in both China and India. While there are similarities in objectives, the proposed strategies appear to be quite different. This paper attempts to compare and contrast the similarities and differences in the planning process of the two Asian giants based on the text of the FYPs of both China and India.

    Insights: 147 : China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue: Avoiding Unavoidables?

    Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 December, 2011
    Bilateral economic ties between China and India have improved rapidly. Both countries are attaching considerable significance to their economic relationship. This is evident from the decision to hold an annual strategic economic dialogue (SED). The first SED was held in Beijing on 26 September 2011. It focused on several areas where the two countries can meaningfully collaborate such as infrastructure development, energy efficiency and water conservation. However, it avoided discussion on barriers to market access that exporters and service providers from the two countries continue to face in each others' domestic markets. The paper argues that future SEDs should discuss possible ways for removing these barriers. Till these restrictions persist, growth in bilateral economic engagement will continue to face restrictions.

    Insights: 146 : India and China’s 12th Five Year Plans: A Comparison of Changing Priorities

    Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 6 December, 2011
    China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP) was released in March 2011. The 12th FYP sets direction for national development for the 2011-15 period aiming to restructure the economy by encouraging domestic consumption. The Planning Commission of India, too, released ‘An Approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017),’ a paper that sets the tone for the 12th FYP paper next year. India’s approach paper calls for ‘faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth’. The two documents set out the key indicators of directions and changes in the development philosophy of governments in both China and India. While there are similarities in objectives, the proposed strategies appear to be quite different. This paper attempts to compare and contrast the similarities and differences in the planning process of the two Asian giants based on the text of the FYPs of both China and India.

    Insights: 145 : WTO Accommodates RTAs: A Triumph of Pragmatism over Pristine Theory

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 November, 2011
    The WTO rests on a tripod. Those familiar with the laws of physics will be aware that an object is most stable when it rests on three legs. Is what is true of physics, also valid for trade? Testing it would be a worthwhile intellectual challenge. The first of the triad that holds up this champion of global free-trade, with near-universal membership of 153 with Russia now also on the cusp of joining, is the Multilateral Agreement on the Trade in Goods (including GATT 94 and associated agreements). The second is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS. The third is the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS. It is noteworthy that the last two distinguishes it from its predecessor GATT which only dealt with goods. But this has not absolved the WTO from being still seen by many as a „rich man‟s club‟ with concomitant passionate opposition.

    Insights: 144 : Obama’s Asia-Pacific Doctrine: India’s options

    S.D. Muni 22 November, 2011
    President Barack Obama‟s address to the Australian parliament followed by his active and energetic participation in East Asia Summit (EAS) and Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Bali on 18-19 November, 2011, gives a clear and bold message that the United States (US) is gearing for an assertive management of the unfolding strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region. In order to prepare ground for such a message, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has been describing the Asia-Pacific region as the new „pivot‟ of US global strategy. Obama‟s address in Australia defines this strategy in detail, almost in the form of a doctrine. It is not yet clear how New Delhi would respond to this new Obama doctrine. Dispelling doubts about the US role in Asia, and defining his new strategic doctrine for the region, Obama said in his Australian address2 : As the world‟s fastest-growing region – and home to more than half the global economy – the Asia-Pacific is critical to achieving my highest priority and that is creating jobs and opportunity for the American people. With most of the world‟s nuclear powers and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress. As President, I have, therefore, made a deliberate and strategic decision – as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends

    Insights: 143 : India-Pakistan Detente: Its Significance is More Than for Restoring Bilateral Relations

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 November, 2011
    On 2 November 2011, Pakistan's cabinet decided to grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, which it should have done soon after the two countries joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). That was 15 years ago. India gave Pakistan the MFN status; Pakistan held it back until now in the hope that it could leverage the MFN issue to get concessions out of New Delhi on Kashmir. This, of course, did not happen. The grant of MFN to India should begin to normalise economic and trade relations between the two countries. That notwithstanding, this paper suggests that the significance of this move goes much beyond bilateral relations between the two countries. It could - perhaps would - influence Pakistan's tattered relations with the United States (US) and to help bring peace to the South Asian sub-continent.

    Insights: 142 : India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership: Beyond 2014?

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 24 October, 2011
    The formalisation of the Agreement on Strategic Partnership (ASP) between India and Afghanistan on 4 October 2011 caught instant and worldwide media attention. Coming ahead of the much convoluted US-Afghan strategic partnership, this agreement is seen to be a new twist in the great game. For the Afghans, it is a reaffirmation of the positive role India has played in the reconstruction of their country and future commitment at a time when other countries are talking of downsizing or even complete withdrawal. The partnership agreement, being first of its kind in post-Taliban Afghanistan, is designed to address the challenges of transition as much as prepare ground for preventing the reversal of gains beyond 2014. In highlighting the utility in India's soft power approach, the paper argues that India's decade-long aid-only policy has been successful in consolidating its gains through such institutional processes. However, it would be useful to see if India and Afghanistan could navigate through the difficult contours of regional security environment as they are poised to jointly address the challenges of transition and beyond.

    Insights: 140 : The Turbulent South-China Sea Waters: India, Vietnam and China

    S.D.Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 11 October, 2011
    The troubled waters of South-China Sea have started spilling over on India’s relations with its East Asian neighbours. Two recent incidents underline this spill-over. One was on 22 July 2011, when India’s war ship INS Airavat was cautioned by China when it was about 45 nautical miles off the Vietnam coast after paying a friendship visit. The second has been in September 2011, when oil exploration by India’s public sector company Oil and Natural Gas Commission Videsh (OVL) in Vietnam’s territorial waters was taken objection to by China. Both the incidents have been played out with caution by the Chinese and Indian official circles. The INS Airavat incident involved a radio message to the Indian ship that it was in Chinese territorial waters which was claimed later to have not been reported to the respective foreign offices. The Chinese foreign office left the incident by reiterating its claims in the South China Sea but saying that it is looking for information on the incident through ‘competent authorities’.2 The Indian side underlined that there was no confrontation involved, while making it clear that India ‘supports freedom of navigation in international waters including South China Sea…in accordance with the accepted international law…to be respected by all’.3 The issue had actually been triggered by reports in the western media, The Financial Times of London (1 September, 2011).

    Insights: 139 : The Crisis in United States-Pakistan Relations: An Alliance Unstuck?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 3 October, 2011
    The United States (US)-Pakistan relations have had a long history of closeness and warmth. For a variety of reasons their traditional understandings now run the risk of becoming unstuck. Each side feels the other is making unreasonable demands. Their alliance must be mended prior to the resolution of the Afghanistan imbroglio. For this to happen, certain initiatives will need to be undertaken. The US is better placed to lead the way. This essay examines the lead-up to the current impasse and makes some recommendations designed to cut the Gordian knot.

    Insights: 138 : The Haqqanis as the Pivot in the Deteriorating US-Pakistan Relations

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 October, 2011
    As the end game came to be played in so far as America's involvement in Afghanistan was concerned, the country's senior leaders decided to focus a great deal of their attention on the work of the Haqqani network that had strong bases in several Afghan provinces neighbouring Pakistan - in particular the provinces of Khost, Pakti and Paktika - as well as in the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan. The network was implicated in a number of high profile acts of terrorism in and around Kabul including the attack on the US Embassy in the Afghan capital. Given the dynamics that was unleashed as a consequence of the announcement by President Barack Obama that the pullout from Afghanistan had already started and the American forces will leave to country by the end 2014, positioning and repositioning of the various forces operating in Afghanistan began in serious earnest. In the meantime a large Afghan security force will be trained to look after the interests of the Afghan state and the nation. There was considerable political pressure on Obama to abide by the timetable. The drain caused by the war on the US Treasury had become untenable. This led to the question as to what kind of Afghanistan Washington should leave behind. Ideally this would mean a country at peace with itself and its neighbours. But for this unlikely outcome to be realised, a number of things needed to happen. One of the more important of these is to have the powerful Haqqani network in the country's south and with a sanctuary in Pakistan to align itself with Washington's broad objectives. Would the use of force bring this about or would negotiations among different interest parties produce the desired result?

    Insights: 137 : A Working America is Good for Asia

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 September, 2011
    America may be declining - in a relative sense, not in an absolute sense - but it still matters how it handles its stumbling economy. All the signs in the middle of September 2011 point towards a slowdown that could result in a double dip recession. Or the economy may just stay in a slump it went in early 2008. It matters for the world, including the countries in South Asia, as to how the American economy performs in the next few months. This Insight examines the current trends in the American economy and how they might influence Asia including South Asia. The main conclusion reached here is that the policymakers in Asia need to be exceptionally vigilant in following the developments taking place in the West.

    Insights: 136 : Afghanistan in Transition: Will ‘Bonn II’ be a Game Changer?

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 September, 2011
    All hopes and attention are yet again riveted on another international conference in Bonn, Germany, later this year. Taking place, almost a decade after the last conference in Bonn, the forthcoming conference (Bonn II)2 is seen as a window of opportunity for the Afghans and the international community to address the past shortcomings and set the parameters for the long term stabilisation of the country beginning with the effective transition (Inteqal) from international to Afghan hands by 2014.

    Insights: 135 : South Asia’s Diminishing Prospects

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 September, 2011
    According to the latest assessments by two international development banks – the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank – and by the central banks of the three major countries of the South Asian mainland – Bangladesh, India and Pakistan – the region has lost some of the economic momentum built up over the last few years. This is largely the result of political uncertainty in the three countries. This has persisted in Pakistan for three years but some recent political developments in Bangladesh and India have also affected economic decision-making. The three countries, having undertaken with some success the first phase of economic reforms, now have to start focusing on the second phase. This will need consensus building which, in turn, demands the exercise of a considerable amount of political will.

    Insights: 134 : China’s ‘Look West’ policy

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS and Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 1 September, 2011
    China is moving aggressively to bring development and modernisation to Xinjiang, its western most provinces. The Autonomous Region, as the Chinese call it, covers one-sixth of China's landmass but has only one-eightieth of its population. It borders six Central and South Asian countries. More than one-half of its population of 20 million people is made up of the people Beijing refers to as the ‘minorities’. More than 90 per cent of Xinxiang's minorities are Uyghurs. These are Muslims, speak classical Turkish and have become restive. They have several grievances, among them, the perception that their presence in the region is being diluted by the arrival of Han Chinese who now make up 41 per cent of the population. The region was the scene of a major uprising in 2009 staged by a segment of the Uyghur population. Hundreds of people were killed when Beijing used force to bring the rebels under control. This led the Chinese central government to rethink its strategy by focusing on the opening of the Autonomous Region to the countries in its neighbourhood. One part of this initiative was the China-Eurasia Expo held in Urumqi, Xingjian's capital, for five days from 1 to 5 September 2011. It attracted some 50,000 officials from China and 30 other countries. As China looks west to developing and modernising its own territories, as a natural corollary, it also seeks to create a friendly external environment, particularly its Muslim-majority close neighbours like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to facilitate the achievement of its domestic agenda.

    Insights: 133 : China’s ‘Look West’ policy

    Shahid Javed Burki and Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 1 September, 2011
    China is moving aggressively to bring development and modernisation to Xinjiang, its western most provinces. The Autonomous Region, as the Chinese call it, covers one-sixth of China's landmass but has only one-eightieth of its population. It borders six Central and South Asian countries. More than one-half of its population of 20 million people is made up of the people Beijing refers to as the ‘minorities’. More than 90 per cent of Xinxiang's minorities are Uyghurs. These are Muslims, speak classical Turkish and have become restive. They have several grievances, among them, the perception that their presence in the region is being diluted by the arrival of Han Chinese who now make up 41 per cent of the population. The region was the scene of a major uprising in 2009 staged by a segment of the Uyghur population. Hundreds of people were killed when Beijing used force to bring the rebels under control. This led the Chinese central government to rethink its strategy by focusing on the opening of the Autonomous Region to the countries in its neighbourhood. One part of this initiative was the China-Eurasia Expo held in Urumqi, Xingjian's capital, for five days from 1 to 5 September 2011. It attracted some 50,000 officials from China and 30 other countries. As China looks west to developing and modernising its own territories.

    Insights: 132 : Iran, US and the Afghan Conundrum

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 September, 2011
    The difficult US-Iran relations have further complicated the search for an 'end game' in Afghanistan. The ongoing talks of the yet-to-be-inked US-Afghan Strategic Partnership deal has raised concerns in Iran of a prolonged US military presence beyond 2014. While the US and Iran share a common goal of preventing the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the dynamics of the great power relations could impede the process of effective transition and create long-term instability in the war-torn country.

    Insights: 131 : Suicides in India: The Economics at Work

    Amitendu Palit, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS, Pratima Singh, Research Associate at ISAS 25 August, 2011
    Suicides in India have been rising steadily over the last couple of decades. The number of suicides committed on economic grounds has more than doubled between 1991 and 2009. This paper studies the pattern of suicides in 10 states reporting highest suicides for the year 2009 and analyses the economic factors behind these suicides. The paper finds that bankruptcy or sharp changes in economic status, along with poverty, are major factors driving suicides in India's relatively prosperous states, while property disputes, career problems and unemployment are doing so in the relatively poorer states. The paper argues that economic prosperity in India has not necessarily resulted in economic security. Suicides on economic grounds might increase unless India is able to develop effective social security mechanisms for tackling economic hardships.

    Insights: 130 : DMIC: Addressing India’s Infrastructure Woes?

    Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS, Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at ISAS 22 August, 2011
    India’s largest integrated infrastructure project -- the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) – is currently under implementation. The DMIC is expected to significantly enhance connectivity among the states it covers. It is the latest example of Indo-Japan collaboration in infrastructure development in India. This paper discusses the main features of the project and argues that while the economic benefits from the DMIC are enormous, care should be taken to ensure that its progress does not get affected by problems of land acquisition, multiple agency co-ordination and slow project implementation.

    Insights: 129 : United States- Economic Problems and Their Ripple Effects

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 August, 2011
    This paper examines the agreement reached on 2 August 2011 between President Barack Obama and the United States (US) Congress on increasing the debt ceiling and discusses its likely ripple effects on the global economy. While South Asia is not well integrated into the global economy to feel the impact of developments a long distance from its borders, it too will be affected. The ripples will reach its shores.

    Insights: 128 : Pakistan’s Deteriorating Economic Situation: How Much of it is Caused by Politics?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 August, 2011
    Pakistan’s economy is in a state of deep crisis, the worst in its troubled history. While some natural disasters – an earthquake in 2005 and floods in 2010 – contributed to the poor performance of the economy, much of it was the result of weak management by the civilian government that took office in the spring of 2008. The cumulative loss to the economy during the five-year tenure of the current administration may be as high as 16 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). On a number of previous occasions the military intervened when the government in place was deemed to be performing poorly in the economic field. Such an outcome seems unlikely this time around as the military has become conscious of the latent power of the street. This has been demonstrated by the Arab Spring. The country’s youth and the civil society do not want to see the army intervene in politics once again. That said, the current government, as it prepares for the general elections that must be held before the spring of 2013, has adopted a populist approach towards economic management. This includes the recent decision by the central bank to ease the supply of money. This may win votes but may further aggravate the already weak economic situation.

    Insights: 127 : India in Africa: Summits and Beyond

    Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 1 July, 2011
    The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s six-day tour of Africa (23 through 28 May 2011) demonstrated India’s desire to forge closer ties with the continent and be an active participant in its growth and developmental process. A number of agreements were signed during the second India-Africa Forum Summit (24 and 25 May 2011) and bilateral meetings with Ethiopia (25 and 26 May 2011) and Tanzania (26 through 28 May 2011) ranging from trade and education to development assistance. The renewed vigour of India’s engagement comes in a landscape of a deepened Chinese presence in Africa. This paper analyses the achievements of the Summit and Prime Minister’s bilateral visits to Africa. The paper also explores India’s development cooperation with the continent in this background.

    Insights: 126: The Great American Debate: Is the Drawdown of Forces in Afghanistan a Realistic Option?

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza 23 June, 2011
    As Afghanistan prepares for transition, United States (US) civilian and military leaders are fiercely debating over the scale and pace of a drawdown in US forces. Given that the Taliban insurgency is demonstrating its potent strike capabilities even in the relatively stable north and west of Afghanistan and talks of a negotiated settlement are gathering momentum, the US military is keen to pursue the current counter-insurgency strategy in order to negotiate from a position of strength. However, the civilian camp in the administration is unwilling to concede to an extended war and is citing rising costs and new geopolitical priorities to bring the US troops home. As the debate between the two camps intensifies, it is bound to impact the course of transition to the Afghan forces over the next three years

    Insights: 125 : China-Pakistan Relations: Evolution of an ‘All-Weather Friendship’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 June, 2011
    The paper examines the evolution of what is now viewed as an ‘all-weather relationship’, the bilateral linkages between China and Pakistan. It seeks to demonstrate the nature of this partnership that has withstood the test of time and what is the impact on it of certain recent international developments like the death of Osama bin Laden, and the resultant strains between the United States (US) and Pakistan. It argues that these events have raised the implications of Sino-Pakistan relationship from a regional to a global level, with the likelihood that the matrix on which it will be played out will now be wider. Introduction

    Insights: 124 : Power-Play of Peers in the Pacific: A ‘Chimerican’ Chess Game?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 June, 2011
    Of late there has been much talk of a new AirSea Battle Concept (ASBC), a synergising calibration of the two services enhancing punch and effectiveness on the part of the United States (US), to strategically engage adversaries in conflict situations. There was mention of this by the US Secretary of Defense at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Though direct reference to China was eschewed, there was no doubt as to whom it was directed towards. The Chinese response for now was in words, but this article argues that it will come in kind, over time. The result could be a power-play in the naval arena of the Pacific between the two peers, the US and China, that could have the effect of destabilising a delicate equilibrium. In order for that not to happen, all actors involved would need to be circumspect and take special care. The room for unintended consequences will be large. Signals given and received, and perceptions in this connection, will be key in shaping behaviour.

    Insights: 123 : Anguish in Abbottabad, Pains of Pakistan and American Anger

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 May, 2011
    The incidents in May 2011, surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden in the quiet Pakistani frontier town of Abbottabad, have shaken the world. The resultant dust has yet to fully settle. The episode has brought anguish to that district, exacerbated the pains of Pakistan and caused much anger in Washington. This paper suggests that the anguish be addressed, pains controlled and anger managed, for greater regional and global peace and stability. It explores whether, as in an unfolding Greek drama, other actors (or factors) can possibly appear on stage to alter the directions of the events of the play. It briefly analyses the many ramifications of the episode for relationships between Pakistan, the United States (US), Afghanistan and India. It underscores the lesson in all this to avoid creating 'Frankensteins' to address momentary problems, monstrous creations which may not be able to be controlled and which may make situations go horribly awry.

    Insights: 122 : India, Libya and the Principle of Non-Intervention

    C. Raja Mohan, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, Contributing Editor for The Indian Express 13 April, 2011
    Delhi’s decision to abstain on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1973, authorising the use of force in the Libyan civil war was not about expressing India’s non-aligned or non-Western identity. Delhi’s own mixed record on international interventions suggests there was no question of high principle involved in its UNSC vote on Libya. Delhi’s response can be explained in terms of India’s strategic culture that is very risk-averse and rather prudent when it comes to the use of force. It has also been shaped in part by a long-standing domestic political tradition of expressing wariness towards Western intervention in the Middle East. India’s policy on Libya appears to be driven by a cold calculus of national interest and a healthy scepticism about the use of force by third parties towards an internal conflict.

    Insights: 121 : Political Economy of CSR: The Companies Bill Debate in India

    Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 6 April, 2011
    The concept of 'Corporate Social Responsibility' (CSR) is not new to the Indian corporate world. The recent proposal by India's Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to make philanthropy compulsory by law under the Companies Bill 2009, however, gave rise to a raging debate in the country. Many questions were raised including whether a rule-based approach to philanthropy is needed and whether making CSR spend mandatory by law would yield the desired outcomes? However, before one answers these questions, it is important to reflect on one fundamental aspect under the CSR debate. If socially responsible behaviour has become key to corporate agendas, then why have only some firms behaved in a socially responsible manner while others have not? This paper examines the factors that govern such behaviour on the part of firms and traces its relevance to the current CSR debate in India.

    Insights: 120 : Foundations of Bangladesh’s Foreign Policy Interactions

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 March, 2011
    The two major foreign policy aspirations of Bangladesh are security and preservation of sovereignty, and the quest for resources for development. Both these objectives combined with the fact that Bangladesh being nearly geographically ‘India-locked’ suggests its method of external behaviour. That is, in Bangladesh’s interest to enmesh herself among a web of extra-regional linkages, that would heighten global stakes within, and also reduce the power-gap with pre-eminent regional protagonists. This high level of international interactions is based on twelve pillars that this essay identifies. It analyses the contribution to behaviour, which has ‘West-leaning’ predilections, by the values espoused by her vibrant civil society and her burgeoning and powerful middle class. The penchant for ‘multilateralism’ is met with caution and circumspection in global politics, implying avoidance of ‘flashy’ policies, together with the adoption, generally, of a ‘low-profile’ on ‘high-risk’ issues, and ‘high-profile’ on ‘low-risk’ issues.

    Insights: 119 : India’s Pakistan Talks: Engagement without Expectation?

    C. Raja Mohan, Strategic Affairs Editor of The Indian Express, New Delhi 28 February, 2011
    Delhi’s recent decision to renew the dialogue with Islamabad, despite the lack of progress on the question of cross border terrorism, underlines the unenviable situation that India finds itself in. Few in India, expect that the resumption of the engagement, will produce substantive results in the near term. India’s ‘on-again, off-again’ peace process with Pakistan, for more than the last decade, has shown that Delhi is not in a position to either coerce Pakistan into giving up its support to ‘anti-India’ militant groups or entice Islamabad into normalising relations, by offering an early resolution of the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir. With limited leverage and problems in dealing with multiple power centres across the border, Delhi has no option but to demonstrate strategic patience in managing its complex relationship with Islamabad, while India awaits structural changes in Pakistan.

    Insights: 118 : Is Bangladesh Economy on the Wrong Foot?

    M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 16 February, 2011
    The Bangladesh economy that expanded during the great recession of 2008-09, seems to be losing its momentum, which is reflected in the turmoil in its stock markets, rising inflation and mounting supply side constraints with regard to energy and infrastructure, among other factors. While the ‘search for yield’ phenomenon owing to real negative interest rate led the irrational exuberance, notably in the stock market, there is a regulatory failure in the economy. Moreover, the actions of the Awami League government’s economic policymakers have been less than adequate in recognising the economy’s existing and implied demand owing to changes in demographic settings, inter alia. The paper discusses these issues at some length and suggests that the government should prioritise the economic agendas rather than the political ones in order to minimise the gap between potential and actual economic output.

    Insights: 117 : Themes from India’s Big Power Diplomacy

    C. Raja Mohan, Strategic Affairs Editor of The Indian Express, New Delhi 26 January, 2011
    India's intensive engagement with the major powers of the international system, in the second half of 2010, has underlined Delhi's improved international standing. Thanks to the growing worldwide perception of its rise, India is now in a position to leverage its economic growth for the pursuit of ambitious political objectives and national security goals. At the same time, India is also under pressure to adapt to the dynamic evolution of relations among the great powers and take new responsibilities in the multilateral domain.


    Insights: 116 : A Curse from God? The Consequences of the Floods on Jihadist Influence in Pakistan

    Didier Chaudet, French specialist of Central and South Asia 13 December, 2010
    The recent floods in Pakistan have been one of the most terrible natural disasters the country has had to deal with since the Partition. It happened at a time of strong local tensions between radical Islamist groups, in particular, of course, the 'Pakistani Taliban', and the central government. This paper examines the implications of the floods for jihadist influence in Pakistan.

    Insights: 115 : Explaining Realignment

    Sumit Ganguly, Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at the Indiana University, Bloomington 19 November, 2010
    This paper explains how India's policymakers reacted to structural shifts in the global order at the Cold War's end and sought to realign India's foreign policy interests and priorities. It analyses these changes through the use of the level of analysis approach to the study of international politics.

    Insights: 114 : Disorder in the Global Economic Order

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 October, 2010
    The consensus that developed among the governments of all major economies in 2008-09 at the time of the economic depression has dissipated leading to tensions among several of them. These are centered mostly on the issue of the value of their currencies. The replacement of consensus at the series of Group of Twenty (G20) meetings in 2009 with discord at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in early October 2010 has produced considerable uncertainty in the markets. The dispute over currency valuation has been exacerbated by political wrangling in the United States (US) leading up to the mid-term elections in November 2010. There is expectation that the G20 summit scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea may produce more concrete results than the earlier Washington meeting. At Seoul, some concerns of South Asia - in particular the voice it has in multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank - may also get addressed.

    Insights: 113 : Bangladeshi Courts

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 19 October, 2010
    Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country of 160 million people was born in 1971. Immediately after independence, it was confronted with a host of developmental and political challenges. Over time it managed to respond to the development issues with a modicum of success. Initially this was done by an effective utilisation of external support as well as domestic resource mobilisation, and then through home-grown concepts like microcredit and non-formal education, which helped in alleviating poverty, mainstream gender and marginalise extremist thoughts and action. The political problems were more daunting. The principles of 'democracy' and 'secularism', among others, were soon eroded by military interventions, with such actions given legislative sanction through the Fifth (1979) and Seventh (1986) amendments to the constitution. Recently the higher judicial courts delivered two historic judgements nullifying the amendments and setting the country again on the path of democracy and secularism. This paper discusses the judgements and Bangladesh's efforts to maintain religious harmony with democratic and secular values.

    Insights: 112 : Inflation, Growth and the 3D: South Asian Perspectives

    M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 15 September, 2010
    While inflation and economic growth, the two fundamental issues of macroeconomics, are often addressed from fiscal and monetary policy perspectives, this paper argues that there is a limitation to the extent they can contain headline inflation and remove barriers to growth. In this connection, the paper suggests that such issues also need to be viewed through a 3D (density, distance and divisions) prism. If addressed properly in the light of the 3D, individual countries of South Asia as well as the region can solve many fundamental problems concerning inflation and growth.

    Insights: 111 : A New Priority in India’s Look East Policy: Evolving Bilateral Relations with Bangladesh

    Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 31 August, 2010
    India is a country and nation on the rise. The process would be facilitated by a supportive regional environment. While with Pakistan relations continue to be challenged, with Bangladesh they appear on the mend. Bangladesh has for a variety of reasons proved to be the calmest country in the region and is also emerging as a responsible international actor. However, if this relationship is to evolve satisfactorily, India will be required to assume a disproportionately greater and non-reciprocal responsibility. The Indian leadership has already intellectually accepted this role and the article recommends some mutual steps towards advancing it. This relationship is also in consonance with India's Look East policy, in which Bangladesh appears to have become a new priority

    Insights: 110 : Mining in India: Separating Growth from Development?

    Amitendu Palit, Head (Development and Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 August, 2010
    Concerns over illegal mining in India have revived following the report of a committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Government of India on mining operations in Orissa. The report has mentioned violation of multiple forest and environment laws in securing forest land for mining. Highlighting complicity between private industry and local administration, the report has urged the MoEF not to allow the transfer of forest land for mining. Following the report, the MoEF has rejected the proposal to transfer land for mining. The paper examines the issues raised in the report and argues that growth of mining and protection of rights of local communities are conflicting objectives. India is yet to evolve a socio-economic mechanism, where these objectives can be simultaneously accommodated.

    Insights: 109 : The RBI Discussion Paper on Entry of New Banks in the Private Sector: A Comment

    S. Narayan 17 August, 2010
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) does not have an articulated policy for the expansion of private sector banking in India. There have been two guidelines, issued in 1993 and 2001, under which the RBI granted some licenses for private sector banking. For the first time now, the RBI has put out a discussion paper on a new strategy - of permitting corporate houses to enter the banking industry in India. As an effort to bring transparency to policy making in this important sphere, it is a very welcome move. However, there are some concerns and this paper highlights some of the issues posed by the discussion paper.

    Insights: 108 : Recovery, Double-dip or Depression

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 August, 2010
    Dark clouds have appeared on the horizon, just as confidence had increased among consumers and investors that the worst was over for the global economy. The clouds have gathered mostly for political reasons. The Europeans ÔÇô the Germans in particular ÔÇô have concluded that they cannot take the risk to persist with expansionary policies. They were discouraged to stay on course by their own history as well as by the nasty jolts delivered by the Mediterranean economies. It took some extraordinary jaw-boning by the United States President Barack Obama to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel to come to the assistance of the almost bankrupt Greece. The American president saw his own set of problems emerge when a highly vocal and noisy part of his electorate began to question the wisdom of his approach to build a mountain of debt to revive an economy that has been stubbornly resisting recovery. These setbacks have made it difficult for the worldÔÇÖs large economies to work together within one economic framework. At the G-20 meeting in Toronto, leaders failed to agree on a common path on which they will be prepared to travel. Asia is the only silver-lining on the horizon. This raises the question whether it has the weight and political will to guide the rest of the world.

    Insights: 107 : President Zardari in China: Cementing Old Ties

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 July, 2010
    President Asif Ali Zardari's recent visit to China represents a continuation of the relationship between Pakistan and China that was started by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his father-in-law. Zardari, however, has been pursuing China more aggressively than both Zulfikar Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. He has focused much more on economics and has now taken the initiative to factor in Afghanistan in what might become a trilateral relationship.

    Insights: 106 : The 2010 Commonwealth Games: India’s Triumph or Disaster

    Syeda Sana Rahman 9 July, 2010
    India’s successful bid to host the 19th Commonwealth Games in October 2010 seems like the South Asian giant’s chance to showcase its growth and progress. Additionally, coming on the heels of China’s triumph with the Beijing Olympics in 2008, anything less than a successful event would be an embarrassment for India. However, preparations for the Commonwealth Games appear to have been blighted by delays and allegations of corruption and inefficiency. Thus, what was supposed to signify India’s arrival on the world stage now appears to typify the problems of governance in India, in terms of both policy-making and implementation.

    Insights: 105 : The Afghan Peace Jirga: Is an end in sight?

    Shanthie Mariet DÔÇÖSouza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 July, 2010
    The recently held peace jirga in Kabul have once again raised hopes among the Afghans and international community of finding peace through 'other means'. The continuing military stalemate and talks of exit have emboldened the Taliban who perceive the tide to be in their favour. In such a scenario, are the peace gestures by the Afghan government a way forward? Will such peace initiatives lead to durable peace in Afghanistan? Will the recently concluded peace jirga provide a consensual framework of negotiations for the Afghans and international community?

    Insights: 104 : Maoism in Bangladesh: Past, Present and Future

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 June, 2010
    More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia' is an ISAS research theme focusing on socio-economic, political and security dimensions of "Maoist movements" in South Asia. The institute conducted a closed-door workshop on the research theme and the presentations are being put together as a series of ISAS Insights and ISAS Working Papers. This is the fifth paper in this series.

    Insights: 103 : The Maoist Movement in Sri Lanka

    Dayan Jayatilleka, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 June, 2010
    More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia' is an ISAS research theme focusing on socioeconomic, political and security dimensions of 'Maoist movements' in South Asia. The institute conducted a closed-door workshop on the research theme and the presentations are being put together as a series of ISAS Insights and ISAS Working Papers. This is the fourth paper in this series.

    Insights: 102 : The Rise and Fall of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

    Ishtiaq Ahmed 26 May, 2010
    During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maoist ideas gained considerable popularity and influence in left politics and the labour movement, and made an impact on Pakistani mainstream politics, which was out of proportion to its political strength in the overall balance of power. Neither class structure nor the ideological and political composition of the state apparatus warranted any such advantage to Maoism. Clues to it are to be found in the peculiar power game over security and influence going on at that time between several states in that region and, perhaps, more crucially in the internal political situation surrounding the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-77). His fall from power, the coming into power of an Islamist regime under General Muhammad Ziaul- Haq (1977-88), and the Afghan jihad spelled disaster for leftist politics. In the 1980s, Maoism faded into oblivion.

    Insights: 101 : Media and Maoism

    Professor Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 19 May, 2010
    More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia' is an ISAS research theme focusing on socioeconomic, political and security dimensions of "Maoist movements" in South Asia. The institute conducted a closed-door workshop on the research theme, and the presentations are being put together as a series of ISAS Insights and ISAS Working Papers. This is the second paper in this series.

    Insights: 100 : Socio-Economic Roots of Maoism post-1980

    Dr S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 May, 2010
    More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia' is an ISAS research theme focusing on socioeconomic, political and security dimensions of 'Maoist movements' in South Asia. The institute conducted a closed-door workshop on the research theme, and the presentations are being put together as a series of ISAS Insights and ISAS Working Papers. This is the first paper in this series.

    Insights: 99 : Management of Fiscal Stress: Are Greece’s Solutions Relevant for India?

    Sasidaran Gopalan and S. Narayan 11 May, 2010
    The financial crisis in Greece and the measures to tackle it have led to a considerable debate on how fiscal deficits should be managed by countries facing fiscal stress. While the immediate causes for worry are Greece's ballooning budget deficit and the risk that other fragile countries like Spain and Portugal might default, the turmoil has also exposed deeper fears that government borrowing in bigger nations could be unsustainable. To some degree, these concerns are relevant for countries like India and those staring at similar numbers. In this context, this piece explores the relevance of the proposed Greece's solutions for India in managing its fiscal stress.

    Insights: 98 : Karzai’s Balancing Act: Bringing ‘China’ In?

    Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 May, 2010
    China’s interests in Afghanistan are perceived to be mainly economic. It is unlikely that the March 2010 Sino-Afghan joint declaration, following President Hamid Karzai’s visit to China, will bring about a dramatic change in the present Chinese policy of abstaining from military engagement in the conflict-ridden country. However, as the scenario of United States (US) withdrawal from Afghanistan looms large, China will have to prepare itself for a much larger and crucial role for long-term stabilisation and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country given that its interests would be at stake. Its friendly ties with Pakistan would continue to be a great leverage when it decides to pursue such a policy.

    Insights: 97 : G.P. Koirala: Nepal’s Democracy Icon

    S.D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 8 April, 2010
    The paper recalls the life and achievements of G.P. Koirala, the first Prime Minister of Nepal's elected Parliament in 1991, and subsequent Prime Minister on five more occasions. Highlighting the vacuum created by G.P. Koirala's death and his absence from Nepali politics, the paper explores the possible ramifications and the political outlook for Nepal.

    Insights: 96 : India’s ‘Look East’ Policy: Reflecting the Future

    Amitendu Palit, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 April, 2010
    India’s ‘Look East’ Policy is aimed to integrate it more closely with its Eastern neighbourhood in the post-Cold War globalising world order. After almost two decades, it is important to reflect on the scope of the policy and shape that it should assume in the days to come. This paper argues that while economic benefits from the policy have been substantive and visible, it is essential for India to decide whether it wishes to play a more strategically proactive role in Asia-Pacific in future. In this regard India must realise that in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the rise of the East is accompanied by a strategic marginalisation of the West.

    Insights: 95 : China and India: Is Policymaking by the Two Asian Giants Merging?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 March, 2010
    New Delhi and Beijing announced their economic plans for the future within a few days of each other. On 26 February 2010, the Indian Finance Minister presented his government's budget for the fiscal year 2010-11. On 6 March 2010, the Chinese Prime Minister's address to the annual National People's Congress included the budget for the year 2010. This paper suggests that while there are many similarities between the approaches followed by the two governments as indicated in their respective statements, there are also several subtle differences. These include the explicit attention paid to taking care of the poor and reducing income disparities in the case of the Chinese approach. In the Indian approach, there is much greater focus on returning to higher rates of growth. In presenting the budget, the Indian leader had his eye on the foreign investor while in presenting his government's economic plan, the Chinese leader was more deliberately addressing his domestic audience. That said, both governments are setting the stages in their two countries for returning to the high growth trajectory. But adjustments need to be made for correcting some of the distortions that had crept in the previous growth spurts.

    Insights: 94 : ‘Seeing it Comin’: The Post-Parliamentary Scenario in Sri Lanka

    Dayan Jayatilleka, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 March, 2010
    In the span of less than a year, Sri Lanka will have transited three decisive turning points: the conclusion of armed conflict in May 2009, the Presidential Election of late January 2010 and the Parliamentary election scheduled for this April. While the ruling coalition strives for a two thirds majority in the legislature, which would permit the replacement of the Constitution, this paper argues that the main result of the upcoming election is already prefigured and portends a new cycle of conflict along the lines of identity politics. The paper concludes that the dominant ideologies on the Sinhala and Tamil sides prevent Sri Lanka’s adoption of the recognised contemporary Asian mechanisms of the management of diversity, thus preventing the country from fully integrating into and benefiting from the economic rise of Asia.

    Insights: 93 : An Analysis of India’s Thirteenth Finance Commission Report

    S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 March, 2010
    The paper looks at the trends of fiscal consolidation in India following the introduction of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act of 2003. It examines the deviations from the FRBM targets since 2007 and analyses the recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission in the light of the evolving pressures on India’s public finances. The paper argues that apart from laying out the roadmap for devolution of resources from the Centre to the States, the Commission’s key contribution has been on emphasising restoration of fiscal discipline by reducing deficits, more transparent use of public debt and greater accountability in managing public finances.

    Insights: 92 : India and Pakistan: Breaking the Ice

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 March, 2010
    The recent Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan have failed to break the ice with regard to any of the major issues between New Delhi and Islamabad. Yet, for a variety of critical reasons, it is essential to regional peace and stability that the two nuclear-armed South Asian states bridge their main differences. In order to be able to do so, new and 'out-of-the-box' thinking is necessary on both the process and substance of their bilateral deliberations. The article, based on the author's own experience of diplomatic negotiations among South Asian nations both at official and political levels, seeks to suggest a way out of the impasse in order to be able to move forward, discarding conflict for cooperation.

    Insights: 91 : South Asian Developments: Moving Towards a D?®tente or Sowing the Seeds of Discord?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 24 February, 2010
    The assessment of some of the recent developments in South Asia is based on a number of conversations the author had in Pakistan during a two-week stay in Lahore and Islamabad in early February 2010. He met with a number of Pakistani politicians, senior officials - civilian and military, serving and retired - most of whom offered their views on the condition that they should not be directly quoted given the sensitive nature of the issues discussed during the conversations. The author also met with some senior diplomats, including those from the United States (US). He had discussions with some officials from the United Nations who were managing programmes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Insights: 90 : Re-organising Indian States: What is going on in Telengana?

    John Harriss 29 January, 2010
    The idea that the Telengana region of the state of Andhra Pradesh, which was historically part of the princely state of Hyderabad, should be constituted as a separate state, has a long history. The announcement on 9 December 2009 by the Home Minister of India that 'the process of forming the state of Telengana would be initiated' has, however, provoked uproar across the state. Whereas, before the 2009 elections all the major parties of Andhra supported the formation of Telengana, all are now divided on the question, and agitation continues. This paper explores the background to the dispute, the reasons why many of the people of the region seek separation, and its implications for thinking about the territorial reorganisation of Indian states. The paper argues that creating smaller states may not be the best way of tackling growing problems of regional inequality across India.

    Insights: 89 : India-Pakistan Relations Post-Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 7 January, 2010
    Relations between India and Pakistan have been proverbially bad ever since both countries attained independence in mid-August 1947. Disputes over territory, division of common assets of the colonial state, forced transfer of minorities in some border provinces and other related issues constitute a case of clashing nationalisms. Three wars - in 1948, 1965 and 1971 - and a dangerous showdown in the hills of Kargil in Kashmir in May 1999 that nearly drove both sides to a nuclear confrontation are indicative of the explosive nature of the rivalry between these two major South Asian states.


    Insights: 88 : The Economics and Politics of China’s Exchange Rate Adjustment

    M. Shahidul Islam 29 December, 2009
    China faces significant political pressure from industrialised economies to revalue its currency upward. Internally, China’s currency ad justment depends largely on the dynamics of its labour and financial markets. Millions of underutilised Chinese labourers, who are in the process of migration from the countryside to urban areas, give Beijing the upper hand in allowing a gradual revaluation of its currency. However, the growing cost of monetary sterilisation is the key hurdle in keeping its currency undervalued for long. Nevertheless, exchange rates are not always determined by economic forces alone – the breakdown of the Bretton Woods exchange rate system in 1971 and the signing of the Plaza Accord in 1985 are two examples. The available data shows that South Asia is generally not hurt, if not a gainer, by an undervalued Chinese currency.

    Insights: 87 : The Copenhagen Climate Accord: Half May be Better than Full

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 22 December, 2009
    It took strenuous efforts on the part of the United States President Barack Obama to get the squabbling conferees representing 193 countries to issue the “Copenhagen Accord”. This was a three-page, twelve-paragraph and two-annex document made public a few minutes before the two-week “conference of the parties” was set to conclude. The Accord is not a binding treaty and as such does not commit the major atmosphere-polluting countries to cut carbon emissions according to an agreed set of targets. As such, the Accord did not please the environment community or the thousands of protesters who kept vigil for two weeks outside the conference hall. That said, the Accord will be a historic document for at least three reasons. Firstly, the conferees – especially the United States (US) – accepted the finding by scientists that global warming was occurring because of human activity. Secondly, it was recognised that much greater adjustment efforts needed to be made by rich countries compared to those that were still at a relatively early stage of development. And, thirdly, that the developing world needed a large infusion of capital to move towards a less carbon-intensive strategy of development as well as to cope with the consequences of global warming. Many in the developing world were bound to be severely affected no matter how stringent were the mitigating actions were, or how much the global community was prepared to take or likely to adopt.

    Insights: 86 : Towards a World without Nuclear Arms: Can 2010 be a Year of Hope?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 December, 2009
    It has been long since advocates of a world without nuclear weapons have had any reason to cheer. Over the past decade things appear to have gone from bad to worse. The entry into force of the arduously negotiated Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) could not be effected for want of a requisite number of ratifications.2 India and Pakistan tested a number of devices each in 1998, and a decade later North Korea joined the ranks. The 2005 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was an unmitigated disaster.3 The Bush administrationÔÇÖs interventionist actions in Iraq and Afghanistan fuelled the notion that a surefire way to protect oneself from bigger powers was to acquire nuclear capability by hook or by crook. While it is true that deterrence held, and no conflict occurred involving nuclear weapons, with the increase in acquisitions by a larger number of states, the mathematical probability of a disaster, even unwitting or unintended, was enhanced.

    Insights: 85 : Sri Lanka’s Post-Conflict Transition: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Aid Effectiveness

    Darini Rajasingham Senanayake, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 October, 2009
    In the heyday of the Non-Aligned Movement, Sri Lanka’s politicians and diplomats wielded an influence disproportionate to the country’s size on the international stage. However, the last 30 years of armed conflict and the way in which it ended has tarnished the island’s international reputation. Yet, at home, the Mahinda Rajapakse government, by comprehensively defeating the Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Eelam, has secured the lasting gratitude of the majority of the people and is widely expected to sweep the general and presidential elections to be held in 2010. The Sri Lankan government also has a golden opportunity to move quickly to heal the wounds of years of conflict through timely reconstruction and reconciliation. The international community would need to support the transition by ensuring aid effectiveness and good donorship.

    Insights: 84 : Looking beyond Current Account Imbalances: Imperatives for The United States

    Suparna Karmakar, Visiting Research Fellow with the ISAS 15 October, 2009
    The growing trade disparity between the world's two largest economies, the United States and China, is often seen as the genesis of the current global imbalance, which exploded in 2007 with the onset of the financial crisis in the United States and the resultant worldwide economic recession. In other words, the crisis was caused by three interlinked factors - high liquidity (in turn, catalysed by imbalances in payments), high leverage and regulatory oversight. Many solutions for unwinding the global imbalance have been proposed, requiring nations to moderate production and consumption imbalances and calling for financial sector regulations and reforms. However, the issue which needs to be put into the centre of domestic reform policies is that of managing the changing relative competitiveness of nations. This change needs to be reflected especially in the world's largest economy, viz. the United States.

    Insights: 83 : Remittances as a Source of External Financing in South Asia1

    Sasidaran Gopalan and Ramkishen S. Rajan 29 September, 2009
    The decline in Official Development Assistance (ODA) extended to many developing countries in recent years has made it necessary for them to look beyond official sources of financing and tap the various sources of private external financing, including workers' remittances. This paper discusses the relative magnitudes and stability of the various sources of external finance available to developing countries, with a specific focus on individual South Asian countries. Particular attention is paid to workers' remittances which is an important and stable source of financing for the developing countries, especially those in South Asia.

    Insights: 82 : Myanmar: Effecting Positive Changes

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 August, 2009
    For a long time now, there has been no good news coming out of Myanmar. On the contrary, the bad publicity associated with Myanmar has made the world even more wary of the iron-fisted sombre generals who govern the country. The artist, Andy Warhol, has said that everyone has 'his fifteen minutes' of fame. The generals in Myanmar are having theirs as well, but for the wrong reasons.

    Insights: 81 : Understanding Bilateral Foreign Direct Investment Flows in Emerging Asia

    Ramkishen S. Rajan,Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS; Rabin Hattari 17 August, 2009
    Many Asian companies have become significant foreign direct investors abroad. According to some rough estimates, intra-Asian FDI flows accounted for about 40 percent of Asia’s total FDI inflows in 2004. If correct, this share is broadly comparable to the extent of intra-Asian trade flows. However, unlike trade flows, there has been little to no detailed examination of FDI flows between Asian economies at a bilateral level. This paper uses bilateral FDI flows data to investigate the trends and drivers of intra-Asian FDI flows in the period 1997 to 2004-05 based on data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). For developing economies, the two most comprehensive databases on FDI inflows and outflows are the International Monetary Fund-Balance of Payment (IMF-BOP) Manual and UNCTAD. Neither source divides FDI into mergers and acquisitions versus Greenfield investments. UNCTAD by far has the most complete FDI database, and unlike the IMF-BOP data, it compiles data on bilateral FDI flows – both inflows and outflows.

    Insights: 80 : The Rise of China: How it will Impact the World

    Shahid Javed Burki 6 August, 2009
    China is rising again, and this time, the change is taking place in response to Beijing's policy responses to an external economic crisis. China has handled domestic economic crises before but this time around the structural impact on the country's economy and its relationship with the outside world will be very different and considerably more profound. How China will change and how that change will influence the world - not just the global economy but also the international political order - are subjects that have begun to receive some attention in academic and policy circles. This paper attempts to bring out some of the issues that should inform the debate.

    Insights: 79 : India’s Foreign Direct Investment Flows: Trying to Make Sense of the Numbers

    Sasidaran Gopalan, Research Associate at the ISAS ; Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 28 July, 2009
    One of the noteworthy dimensions of India’s increasing integration with the world economy has been the increase in both gross foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into and outflows from the country over the last decade. The simultaneous spurt in both FDI inflows and outflows has meant that FDI has not been a significant source of balance of payments financing on a net basis, at least until 2006 (Figure 1). The rise of India as a source and host of FDI has begun to generate a sizeable literature on the determinants and characteristics of such flows at an aggregate level. However, much less work has been devoted to the analysis of FDI inflows and outflows at the bilateral level, primarily due to the paucity of data.

    Insights: 78 : India’s Nuclear Navy: Catching up with China

    C. Raja Mohan 20 July, 2009
    The launch of India’s indigenous nuclear-powered submarine on 26 July 2009 marks a major breakthrough in the nation’s efforts to build a nuclear navy and close the gap with China’s growing underwater deterrent capability. New Delhi, like Beijing, had to struggle for decades to advance on its maritime nuclear project, involving the technologies of nuclear propulsion, underwater launch of ballistic missiles and the art of operating nuclear submarines. Although China is well ahead of India in the deployment of a credible sea-based deterrent, the time has come for Beijing and New Delhi to start a substantive dialogue on nuclear and maritime confidence building measures.

    Insights: 77 : How Flexible have Asian Exchange Rate Regimes become in the Post-crisis Era?

    Tony Cavoli; Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 July, 2009
    A decade after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, Asia has once again been hurt by the global financial crisis that emanated in the financial sectors of the United States and Western Europe. The high degree of openness of Asia to trade, investment and capital flows inevitably meant that the regional economies would be impacted, although they had coped admirably until September 2008, even leading many analysts to talk about the possible 'decoupling' of the region from the West. Such talk quickly vanished with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, which led to the skyrocketing of emerging market spreads and extreme tightening of credit markets worldwide. The sharp curtailment in export demand, freezing of credit markets, including trade financing and wholesale funding, as well as the abrupt reversal in capital flows to emerging markets, worked in tandem to curtail near-term growth in Asia quite heavily (Rajan, 2009 and Figure 1). While the spillovers from the global financial crisis to Asia were sudden and rather dramatic, once credit markets started thawing by March 2009, Asia looked poised to emerge most rapidly from the global economic contraction compared to many other regions.

    Insights: 76 : Asia and the Global Financial Crisis: A Broad Overview

    Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 July, 2009
    Until the mid-1990s, emerging Asian economies were among the most dynamic in the world. In addition to the sustained growth of the newly industrialising economies (NIEs) - Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan - and the near-NIEs in Southeast Asia (notably the economies of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand), the Asian giants of China and (later) India were rapidly integrating into the global economy. The Asian crisis of 1997-98 brought the growth in the NIEs and Southeast Asia to a screeching halt. The region experienced a period of painful but much needed deleveraging and corporate and financial restructuring (including consolidation, loan loss recognition and restructuring of bad loans) as well as some institutional and governance reforms. The region faced setbacks with a series of negative shocks in 2000-03, including the collapse of the NASDAQ bubble, the spread of SARS, the Avian flu and some natural disasters, all of which helped delay a full-fledged recovery in both growth and asset prices. Although some doubts were expressed about whether the region could regain its lustre at all, Asia re-emerged quite strongly, with growth returning to pre-crisis levels and asset prices, in most cases, even surpassing their pre-crisis levels.

    Insights: 75 : Does the type of Private Capital Flow matter for Financial Stability in Emerging Economies?

    Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 July, 2009
    The painful structural changes that much of emerging Asia went through since the 1997-98 crisis, as well as the relatively more cautious approach towards capital account liberalisation and foreign bank entry in a number of the Asian economies appear to have helped to reduce the extent of damage that these economies faced in the recent global financial crisis. The region has clearly suffered relatively less than many other emerging economies, particularly those in Europe. Indeed, with the exception of Pakistan, the vast majority of the emerging economies that have recently obtained crisis-related loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been from emerging Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), broadly termed Eastern Europe hereafter.3 Among the Eastern European borrowers that have already negotiated Stand-by Arrangement loans are Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Belarus and Latvia.

    Insights: 74 : Pakistan: Making the Budget in Difficult Times

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 July, 2009
    These are extremely difficult times for Pakistan. It is not only the challenge thrown at the state by the Islamic extremists that has caused so much anxiety inside and outside the country. Many people that have influence in shaping world politics have called this challenge an "existential threat" for Pakistan. Among them is Hillary Clinton, America's Secretary of State, who issued the warning that, unless Islamabad realises the enormity of the threat extremism poses to the very existence of the country, the Pakistani state may simply unravel. There is certainly some exaggeration in this assessment - it was made, most probably, to draw the attention of the policymakers in Islamabad. It seems to have served that purpose. In mid-May 2009, the military was ordered into Swat, a district in the North-West Frontier Province, and it seems to have taken the area back from the extremists. The armed forces have now been told to go after the leadership of the group that goes by the name of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. It is loosely associated with Al-Qaeda, and in Baitullah Mehsud, it has his own charismatic leader.

    Insights: 73 : Presidential Elections in Afghanistan: Unintended Consequences?

    Shakti Sinha, Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 July, 2009
    Incumbent Hamid Karzai is the front-runner, by a considerable distance, in the upcoming Presidential elections in Afghanistan – a far cry from predictions made as recently as six months ago that he had become lame duck as he had lost the confidence of both the Afghans and the Americans. His opposition was clustering around a new grouping, the United National Front, his allies were deserting him and he seemed doomed to be in the footnotes of Afghanistan’s history. Critically, there were constitutional and legal issues about his term that seemed to seriously question his continuance in office beyond 22 May 2009, with elections scheduled only for 20 August 2009. However, the circle seems to have come around and those Afghans and foreigners hoping for a change of leadership and fortunes are sounding extremely demoralised.

    Insights: 72 : Tackling Battlefield Asymmetries: Changing Tactics in Emerging Insurgencies

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 18 June, 2009
    Most current military conflicts are between apparent unequals. Yet, we see that the obvious and expected result, which is the victory of the superior power, is not so easily achieved. For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has not scored remarkable victories against the ragtag Taliban in Afghanistan; the well-armed and equipped Pakistani army has been unable to bring the unruly Frontiers under its control and; not so long ago, the Hizbullah was able to grind to a halt the advance of the powerful Israeli forces in Lebanon. In each case, the numerically smaller and poorly equipped adversary, all non-state actors, resorted to unconventional means to deter the more powerful. This is also why the defence establishment in Islamabad has been cautious about proclaiming the end to the conflict in Swat.

    Insights: 71 : Indian Elections 2009: A Prognosis of the Verdict

    Amitendu Palit, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 29 May, 2009
    The results to the 15th general elections for the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of India’s parliament were announced on 16 and 17 May 2009. Subsequently, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh, formed the government for its second successive tenure. This paper analyses the outcomes of India’s general elections by examining the performances of the different political parties in terms of seats won and votes obtained. It tries to identify the reasons behind the Congress winning far more seats than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by comparing their regional performances. It also analyses, in the same vein, the poor performance of the Left parties and the failure of the Third Front to make an impact in the elections.

    Insights: 70 : Three Elections and Two State Actions – Has South Asia Finally Turned the Corner?

    Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 May, 2009
    There are two, perhaps three, nation-building ideas that have been in conflict in South Asia since the British left the subcontinent in the late 1940s. One was espoused by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who governed the country for the first 17 years after independence in 1947. According to this belief, even in a country with such diversity as India, it was possible to construct economic, political and social systems that would protect all citizens, not only those who constituted the majority. Sunil Khilnani, the Indian political theorist, has called this the “idea of India”.2 There were, in fact, two ideas, both supported by Nehru and both with good historical justification. These two ideas were brought together in the Indian Constitution promulgated in January 1950. According to the historian, Ramachandra Guha, the Constitution brought together what he calls the “national” and “social” revolutions. “The national revolution focused on democracy and liberty – which the experience of colonial rule had denied to all Indians – whereas the social revolution focused on emancipation and equality, which tradition and scripture had withheld from women and low castes.”3 The idea of India, in other words, was a composite one.

    Insights: 69 : Manmohan Singh-II: The Foreign Policy Challenges

    S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 May, 2009
    Foreign policy did not appear to be a major issue for voters in India's 2009 parliamentary elections. However, it did indirectly shape the electoral outcome. The Left's stubborn position on the India-United States civil nuclear deal, stretched to the extent of almost pulling down the government, did dent its self-projected image of a constructive nationalist political force and contributed to its poll-drubbing. In contrast, the civil nuclear deal issue added to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's image as a quiet but firm leader. After signing the deal, nuclear commercial transactions were concluded first with France, Russia and Kazakhstan rather than the United States. The United States intelligence assessments of India's foreign policy asserted that it will follow an independent path, collaborating with the United States only when India's own interests so dictate.

    Insights: 68 : Post-Election India: How the Neighbours View the Elephant

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 May, 2009
    The Indians have spoken electorally. In what has been the largest election ever, at any time anywhere, in the world's biggest democracy, they have returned to power one of the oldest political parties in the world, the Indian National Congress, to lead their government. They have displayed their willingness to continue to be led by a wise man, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and an experienced woman, the Congress Party's President, Sonia Gandhi, till such time change and youth come, as they will inexorably, in the form of Rahul Gandhi in leadership role. In the same breath, therefore, this vast electorate has opted for continuity and change, thus displaying the maturity of the common voter and demonstrating the efficacy of democracy as the most effective form of social organisation.

    Insights: 67 : Nepal in Crisis

    S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 May, 2009
    Nepal’s peace process has been transiting from one crisis to another. The latest one has been precipitated by the resignation of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) and the search for a new coalition government. Prachanda’s resignation was in protest against President Ram Baran Yadav’s decision to reject the cabinet’s decision to sack the army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal. The Maoist-led government sacked General Katawal on the charges of his “defiance” of civilian authority. The government wanted to establish the principle of “civilian supremacy” by curbing the army’s tendency to ignore the government’s directives. The other coalition partners in the Maoist-led government, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (UML) and the Madhesh Janadhikar Forum (MJF) had reservations about the sacking of the army chief. The UML walked out of the cabinet meeting and the MJF submitted a note of dissent when the cabinet took the decision on 3 May 2009.

    Insights: 66 : The Sorrows of Swat and the Mayhem in the Malakand: What Now?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 May, 2009
    As early as the 6th century B.C., the Chinese traveller, Huang-Tsang, praised the forests, flowers and the fruits of the rugged mountains and the beautiful valley of Swat. So did the Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, who arrived there a couple of hundred years later. Thus, visitors from the east and the west were in agreement on the lands idyllic ambience in the ancient ages. In the modern days, Swat has been called the Switzerland of Pakistan for the same scenic splendour. Alas, the comparison with Switzerland ends there for, unlike the playground of Europe, Swat today is a stage where a Grecian tragedy of Olympian proportions is being enacted.

    Insights: 65 : The Politics of International Aid and New Asian Donors: Prospects for Peace and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka

    Darini Rajasingham Senanayake, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 May, 2009
    The United States' government that wields considerable influence at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sought to delay the US$1.9 billion loan appeal by Sri Lanka in the context of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the island. The Sri Lankan government, which has promised that it is at the end of its endgame with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is seeking funds for the reconstruction of the northeast conflict-affected region, among other things. Colombo argues that it is fighting a 'war on terror'. Clearly, Colombo needs the IMF loan to service its external debt as a result of soaring defence expenditure and external borrowings which are also related to controversial oil-hedging deals.

    Insights: 64 : Indian Elections 2009: The Prime-ministerial Candidates

    Amitendu Palit, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 May, 2009
    The casting of votes for India's 15th general elections draws to a close on 13 May 2009. The final phase of voting on 13 May 2009 will see curtains coming down on the elections in the world's largest democracy - an exercise that lasted for almost four weeks spread over 543 constituencies across 28 states and seven Union Territories.

    Insights: 63 : Indian Elections 2009: What the Forecasts Say

    Tridivesh Singh Maini, Research Associate at the ISAS 12 May, 2009
    The elections of 2009 are unique for a number of reasons. These include the lack of discernible popular waves favouring any political formation led by the two main national parties; the enhanced significance of regional parties; selective influences of diverse political leaders; and the intensity with which the elections are being fought over five weeks.

    Insights: 62 : The Malaise in Myanmar: What is to be done?

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 May, 2009
    A question that the international community is currently grappling with is how to handle the situation and the powers that be in Myanmar. The regime, headed by the 75-year-old General Than Shwe, continues to control the destiny of the nation and rules it with an iron fist, unresponsive to calls for change, both from within and outside the country. Indeed, the country has been run by the military junta for more than four decades, dating back to when General Ne Win staged a coup in 1962 (Myanmar, then known as Burma, had obtained independence from the British in 1948), suspended the Constitution, banned the opposition and introduced “the Burmese way to socialism”. Power was exercised by the State Law and Order Council (SLORC) which put down massive public demonstrations in 1987 and 1988. And in the following year in 1989, the SLORC changed the name of the country to Myanmar, declaring that it was more in consonance with Burmese history and culture. The United States and many Western countries refused to recognise this change of nomenclature and continued to call it Burma, though at the United Nations took it on the new name.

    Insights: 61 : The Sri Lankan Situation and the Principle of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 April, 2009
    Of course, the Indians need to tread a delicate path as their government is well aware of the tremendous Sri Lankan sensitivities to any mention of the ‘R2P’ in this context. About two years ago, a foreign academic, Dr Rama Mani, who was the Executive Director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Colombo, was sacked and her visa cancelled for espousing this idea. Also trenchantly criticised by the pro-government media in Colombo was Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister, who is the President of the International Crisis Group and a champion of the principle, for suggesting at a lecture hosted by Dr Mani As the Sri Lankan army presses on with its final assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stronghold, with over 50,000 civilians feared entrapped in the fighting, Indian External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, made a public statement on the evolving situation. He said, “These killings must stop. The Sri Lankan government has a responsibility to protect its own citizens and the LTTE must stop its barbaric attempt to hold civilians hostage.” A key element in his remarks was the use of the phrase ‘responsibility to protect’. Was he referring to the recently-adopted United Nations (UN) principle which also goes by the acronym of ‘R2P’ and hinting at its relevance to the Sri Lankan context? It is most likely not the case, at least, in a military sense.

    Insights: 60 : Indian Elections 2009: Where are Economic Reforms Headed?

    Bibek Debroy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 April, 2009
    India is holding its 15th general elections from 16 April to 13 May 2009. The elections are taking place in challenging circumstances. A variety of cross-cutting political, security, economic and socio-cultural issues are influencing the elections. The exercise is impacted by multiple parties, personalities and positions from India's vast political spectrum.

    Insights: 59 : The New Bangladesh Government: The Road Ahead

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 April, 2009
    29 December 2008 was a watershed in Bangladesh's democratic evolution. In the elections that have been called historic, the Awami League-led Grand Alliance or Mohajote swept the national polls. Following an overwhelming victory, its leader, Sheikh Hasina, was sworn in on 6 January 2009 as Prime Minister of this nation of 147 million people. There could be few better examples to underscore this point than the Shakespearean quote that "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." She was immediately confronted with challenges that were legion, including a bloody mutiny among border guards. The future of democracy of the vast populace, impoverished yet filled with promise, will depend on her ability to tackle these issues successfully.

    Insights: 58 : Pakistan: A Year after the Democratic Elections

    Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 April, 2009
    Pakistan emerged out of a decade of military rule under President Pervez Musharraf on 18 February 2008 when the general elections were held. During the last period of President Musharraf's reign, Pakistan was reeling under economic malaise and a serious political crisis. The civil society inspired a broad-based people's movement, led by the lawyers that eventually resulted in the end of military dictatorship and the dawn of a new era of democratic governance. Now, it has been one year since Pakistan re-entered the democratic world and the question is whether Pakistan is in a better state now than it was prior to 18 February 2008. This paper reviews the state of Pakistan a year after the installation of the democratically-elected government.

    Insights: 57 : Indian General Election 2009 – Geographical Influence of Regional Parties and Electoral Outlook

    Sasidaran Gopalan, Research Associate at the ISAS 2 April, 2009
    India’s elections are becoming increasingly trickier for psephologists, given the heavily fractured mandates produced by such exercises. One of the plausible reasons for the electoral mandate having become increasingly splintered is the steady emergence of a large number of ‘non-national’ parties in India’s domestic politics and the electoral process. A fragmented and fractured polity with regional and state actors wielding significant bargaining power with the national parties has decisively changed the structure, nature and outcome of Indian elections since the 1990s.

    Insights: 56 : Indian General Election 2009 – The Women to Watch

    Tridivesh Singh Maini, Research Associate at the ISAS 25 March, 2009
    This paper examines the role of select women politicians from national and regional parties in the forthcoming Indian elections. It focuses particularly on the significant impact that three key women politicians are likely to have on the elections and the post-electoral government formation. These three politicians are Mayawati Kumari (Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP]), J. Jayalalitha (former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [AIADMK]) and Mamata Banerjee (Former Union Minister and main leader of the Trinamool Congress [TC]). Before providing a detailed analysis of the significance of the three leaders, the paper will set the context by highlighting the role of women in South Asia's politics, women voters and the representation of women in India's Parliament, and an overview of women leaders in India's politics.

    Insights: 55 : Another Upheaval Averted But Pakistan Remains on the Brink

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 March, 2009
    In the second week of March 2009, it seemed Pakistan was on the verge of another bout of volatility, instability and perhaps violent clashes between the police and demonstrators protesting the verdict by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court declaring Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, ineligible to hold public office. In addition, they demanded the restoration of the displaced Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, and several other judges, who had been deposed during the emergency imposed by General Pervez Musharraf in late 2007.

    Insights: 54 : Indian Elections 2009: Foreign Policy Will Hardly Matter

    S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 March, 2009
    Elections in a country like India are seldom driven by foreign policy. The voters, concerned generally as they are with the bread and butter, and law and order issues, do not get mobilised by foreign policy dynamics and diplomatic nuances. Even major strategic achievements with global implications do not move ordinary electorates.

    Insights: 53 : Indian General Elections 2009 – Key Issues That Could Influence Voting Behaviour

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta 5 February, 2009
    The 15th general elections in India will be held in five phases between 16 April and 13 May 2009; and the results of voting in the world’s largest democracy will be declared on 16 May 2009. Political parties all over the country, both national and regional, are not only drawing up their election manifestoes, but are also firming up campaign strategies and finalising messaging programmes. The larger national political parties are also busy putting together alliances with smaller regional parties in the hope of winning elections in a sufficiently large number of parliamentary constituencies to enable a stable coalition to come to power in New Delhi. However, this may not happen and the likelihood of political instability of the kind seen in India between 1996 and 1999 cannot be ruled out.

    Insights: 52 : Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Western Indian Ocean

    C. Raja Mohan 5 February, 2009
    The Chinese President Hu Jintao’s brief stopover in Mauritius in February 2009, as part of his four-nation African tour, does not fit in with the widespread perceptions of Beijing’s resource diplomacy. On the eve of President Hu’s second African tour in barely two years, which included Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius, Chinese officials were eager to counter the notion that China’s African diplomacy was all about resources. Pointing out that the four African states on Hu’s itinerary were not known for mineral wealth, Chinese officials insisted that Beijing’s interest in Africa “isn’t confined to energy and resources”.

    Insights: 51 : Indian Elections 2009: The Economic Backdrop

    Bibek Debroy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 February, 2009
    India will hold its 15th general elections in April/May 2009. The elections will take place in challenging circumstances. A variety of cross-cutting political, security, economic and socio-cultural issues will influence the elections. The exercise will be impacted by multiple parties, personalities and positions from IndiaÔÇÖs vast political spectrum.

    Insights: 50 : Indian Elections 2009: Why the ‘Y’ Factor Matters

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta 5 February, 2009
    India will hold its 15th general elections from 16 April to 13 May 2009. The elections will take place in challenging circumstances. A variety of cross-cutting political, security, economic and socio-cultural issues will influence the elections. The exercise will be impacted by multiple parties, personalities and positions from India’s vast political spectrum.

    Insights: 49 : The Growing Influence of Business and Media on Indian Foreign Policy

    Sanjaya Baru 5 February, 2009
    Dr Manmohan Singh was perhaps the first Indian Prime Minister to so clearly articulate the rising influence of civil society and business in the making of Indian foreign policy. Turning a 19th Century aphorism on its head, the Prime Minister seemed to suggest that it is no longer trade that 'follows the flag', but 'the flag' that follows trade.

    Insights: 48 : Indian General Elections 2009 – National and Regional Political Parties, their Leaders and Strategies

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta 2 February, 2009
    India will hold its 15th general elections in April/May 2009. The elections will take place in challenging circumstances. A variety of cross-cutting political, security, economic and sociocultural issues will influence the elections. The exercise will be impacted by multiple parties, personalities and positions from India’s vast political spectrum. As India moves into the election mode, the Institute of South Asian Studies will bring out a series of papers analysing different aspects of the forthcoming elections. These will include, among others, the key national and regional parties, and their strategies, key political personalities, and the issues that are likely to have an impact on the elections. This paper, the first in the series, provides an overview of India’s main political parties participating in the elections, along with their strategies and key leaders.

    Insights: 47 : The Mumbai Terrorist Attacks: An Assessment of Possible Motives for the Mayhem

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 January, 2009
    On 26 November 2008, a series of terrorist attacks were launched on IndiaÔÇÖs megalopolis and financial capital, Mumbai, by suspected members of the Pakistan-based jihadist organisation, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). While earlier attacks such as the July 2006 Mumbai commuter train bombings had caused 209 deaths,2 the Mumbai attacks attracted greater worldwide attention. The culprits had not only placed the bombs stealthily; they also carried out their operation in a very public manner. For some 60 hours, the Indian security forces battled with the terrorists. Finally only one, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was captured alive. Indian authorities claimed to have found nine dead bodies of the alleged terrorists. The attackers had apparently come from PakistanÔÇÖs port city of Karachi, taken the sea route and landed at the Mumbai coast in boats. Indian coastal defence and intelligence apparatuses failed completely to detect them.3 Some writers described the Mumbai attacks as IndiaÔÇÖs 9/11 because the culprits had deliberately targeted symbols of Indian affluence and grandeur such as the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels and places where westerners gathered such as the Leopold Caf?®. Targeting the Jewish centre at Nariman House was certainly meant to create maximum effect and capture international attention.

    Insights: 46 : President Barack Obama, the United States and the Sino-Indian Balance

    C. Raja Mohan 29 January, 2009
    As President Barack Hussein Obama begins to revamp United States (US) foreign policy, the debate in South Asia has focused on one seemingly simple question - Will Obama depart from his predecessor George W. Bush and re-hyphenate US policies towards Islamabad and New Delhi as part of a new strategy towards the sub-continent? A less-debated second question, however, could be far more consequential for the Indo-US relationship and for the future of balance of power in Asia.

    Insights: 45 : Win the War and Lose the Peace: Sri Lanka’s ‘War on Terror’

    Darini Rajasingham Senanayake, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 January, 2009
    It looks like one of the more winnable conflicts in an age of the global ‘war on terror’. The Sri Lankan government appears to be on the brink of announcing victory in its drawn-out battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The armed separatist group, listed as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups, has fought successive Sri Lankan governments for over a quarter of a century in the guise of liberating the island’s Tamil community from a state that has increasingly marginalised linguistic and religious minorities. However, the question remains as to whether the victory would be pyrrhic when finally manifest, consolidated on irreparable damage to the county’s increasingly fragile democratic institutions and centuries-old multicultural, multi-religious and hybrid social fabric.

    Insights: 44 : Indian Bureaucracy – Dismantling the Steel Frame

    Bibek Debroy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 January, 2009
    This is an apocryphal story, even though I got it from a very senior ex-civil servant – Lord Linlithgow was Governor-General and Viceroy to India from 1936 to 1943 and Chairman of a Royal Commission on Agriculture (1926-28) earlier. In 1973, Tamil Nadu constituted a State Administrative Reforms Commission, which also examined existing government positions in the state. It was discovered then that there were positions known as ‘LBAs’ and ‘LBKs’, though no one precisely knew what these job descriptions meant, since vacancies had not been filled up and earlier incumbents were now drawing pensions. The Royal Commission felt Indian cows were not good enough and cattle strains needed improvement through the import of sturdier bulls and using them to impregnate Indian cows. As was common, this recommendation was not implemented until in 1936 when it was announced Linlithgow would become Viceroy. Someone in the Madras Presidency then woke up, realising the incoming Viceroy would be sure to ask about a key recommendation made by a Commission of which he had been Chairman. Creating government jobs was not easy either. Hence, the Viceroy’s name was invoked in the job title to facilitate creation. ‘LBA’ stood for Linlithgow’s Bull Assistant and ‘LBK’ stood for Linlithgow’s Bull Keeper. ‘LBKs’ imported foreign bulls and maintained them. ‘LBAs’ ensured impregnation occurred on time and ensured that ‘LBKs’ did not commit fraud on the exchequer. These posts were abolished in mid-1970s. Apocryphal or not, this beats the story about the British civil service position finally abolished in 1945. It was created in 1803 and a man was asked to stand on the cliffs of Dover, with a spyglass in his hand, to watch out for Napoleon and ring a bell if he saw signs of an invasion.


    Insights: 43 : An Overview of the November-December 2008 Provincial Elections in India

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta 17 December, 2008
    The outcome of the elections to the legislative assemblies of five Indian provinces or states, namely, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, that became known on 8 December 2008, indicates that voters in the world’s largest democracy are becoming increasingly mature. Even as votes are cast in favour of candidates and political parties that provide (and not merely promise) good governance, anti-incumbency sentiments remain pronounced in many parts of the country. In addition, India’s voters – poor and uneducated though many of them may be – appear to be less prone to be influenced by emotive issues related to terrorism, religion, caste and community and seem to be more concerned with what could be considered substantive issues pertaining to economic and social development. The results of the recently-concluded assembly elections have made the country’s two largest political parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), introspect about their future while drawing up strategies in the run-up to the forthcoming fifteenth

    Insights: 42 : Pakistan’s Economic Crisis and the IMF Bailout Package

    Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 9 December, 2008
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a US$7.6 billion bailout package to prevent Pakistan from defaulting on its external debt. The 23-month Stand-By Arrangement under the Fund's fast-track Emergency Financing Mechanism has provided an immediate US$3.1 billion funding to strengthen the country's fast deteriorating foreign exchange reserves. The programme seeks to preserve social stability and restore investor confidence in Pakistan by addressing its current macro-economic imbalances. At the same time, it sends a strong signal to the international donor community about the country's improved macroeconomic prospects.

    Insights: 41 : Some Approaches to Pricing Controls for Patented Drugs in India

    S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research at the ISAS 1 December, 2008
    The Government of India has constituted a Group of Ministers (GOM) to finalise the National Pharmaceutical Policy. One of the issues before the GOM is the question of price controls for patented drugs and formulations. Though such controls are distortionary, it appears that there is a direction to propose such controls. This paper examines the features of price control mechanisms in different countries and suggests two alternatives. The first is a Vietnam-like approach where prices are negotiated for government purchases, and are merely intimated and approved for public markets. The second is a mechanism where the price fixed is not higher than the lowest in any of the comparator countries. The paper describes the processes involved in making this mechanism work.

    Insights: 40 : Locking in Private Investment in Indian Agriculture

    Romar Correa, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 November, 2008
    Experience has conclusively established that investments in agriculture made by developing countries are pro-growth and pro-poor.1 Agriculture continues to provide a labour-intensive source of employment, cheap food, raw materials, labour, savings, and the demand for non-agricultural goods. Yet, over the last three decades, there has been a significant systemic bias against the rural economy in the allocation of public resources. This scenario is inefficient because no developed economy of significant size became so without the agricultural sector recording substantial productivity gains.

    Insights: 39 : For Illiberal Finance: Building Dams, Constructing Conduits

    Romar Correa 12 November, 2008
    The context of financial liberalisation in India was the inefficiencies created by the government's control of prices and quantities in the financial markets. One alleged legacy has been the stockpiling of non-performing assets in connection with funds requisitioned for given sectors. Here, as well as elsewhere, more discrimination must be exercised in passing judgment. In Appendix Table III.29 (A) of the Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2006-2007 by the Reserve Bank of India, 2007, it is stated that non-performing assets of public sector banks are 60 percent in connection with the priority sector, and 40 percent in connection with the non-priority sector. Reform has meant the cautious relaxing of these constraints. The recent worldwide conflagration has brought to the fore the inherent fragility of financially sophisticated economies. The dynamics of modern economies is written by real-financial couplings. Over good times, conservative postures give way to excessive risktaking. Financial innovations abound, securitisation being a recent illustration. At some time during the euphoric upswing, the correspondence between securities and the underlying assets is called and then a downward cascade results. In the case of developing countries as well, the link between financial liberalisation and crises is quite robust.

    Insights: 38 : India-United States Relations under the Obama Administration

    Sanjaya Baru, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 November, 2008
    United States President-elect Barack Obama's most recent and most detailed comment on relations with India is contained in the personal letter he addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the latter visited Washington D. C. in September 2008. Obama said, "I would like to see United States-India relations grow across the board to reflect our shared interests, shared values, shared sense of threats, and ever burgeoning ties between our two economies and societies."

    Insights: 37 : Inter-Regionalism and its Possibilities

    Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore 19 September, 2008

    Insights: 36 : Bangladesh-China-Northeast India: Opportunities and Anxieties

    M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 8 September, 2008
    A recent workshop in Kolkata on Southern Silk Route: Historical Links and Contemporary Convergences explored the historical connections between Bangladesh, China,1 India,2 and Myanmar (also known as BICM). These countries were believed to be connected via the Southern Silk Route for centuries.3 The workshop that drew nearly 30 academics and diplomats from different parts of the world also examined how century-old economic and cultural linkages can be re-exploited for economic and other benefits for the region's roughly 300 million people.

    Insights: 35 : The Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence: A Profile

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 August, 2008
    In the past few weeks, Pakistan has come under intense pressure from the United States, Afghanistan and India to curb alleged involvement of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in terrorist activities. Such pressure has built rapidly in the aftermath of bomb blasts, some carried out by suicide bombers, in July 2008 in many parts of South Asia. Those outrages caused well over a hundred deaths. Much before the recent attacks, the ISI's power and influence in politics had gained it the reputation of "a state within a state", suggesting that Pakistani governments, especially those formed by civilians, have little or no control over its activities. The ISI rejects such accusations, claiming that it is a professional organisation dedicated fully to gathering intelligence that would strengthen Pakistan's national survival and security.

    Insights: 34 : India’s Employment Exchanges – Should they be revamped or scrapped altogether?

    Bibek Debroy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 July, 2008
    “There have been no attempts, so far, on collecting statistical material on employment and unemployment; the only published figures at present available are the registrations and placements of employment exchanges. These figures cannot, however, give an idea of the total volume of unemployment. Firstly, employment exchanges are confined to industrial towns and the figures of registrations and placements which they compile are restricted mostly to the industrial and commercial sector. Secondly, even in the industrial sector, there is neither compulsion for the unemployed, to register with the exchanges, nor is there any obligation on the part of the employer to recruit labour only through these exchanges. Even the information regarding unemployment among the industrial workers is, thus, inadequate. Thirdly, in the nature of the case, employment exchange statistics cannot indicate the amount of disguised unemployment which is otherwise believed to exist. This means that the extent to which qualified persons have to accept work which does not give them the income which persons with similar qualifications get elsewhere cannot be assessed from these data. There is also to some extent registration of persons who are already in employment and who desire to seek better jobs. This tendency is reported to exist in the more qualified section of registrants, but to the extent a region maintains these persons on the register of employment seekers, there is an overestimate of the number unemployed.” This was not written yesterday. It is a quote from India’s First Five Year Plan (1951-56) document.1 Nothing would substantially change if this were to be written now.

    Insights: 33 : The First Budget by the New Coalition Government in Pakistan: Economic Situation and Policy Directions

    Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 9 July, 2008
    The troubled coalition government passed its first federal budget (Fiscal Year 2008-09)2 on 22 June 2008, after being in office for a hundred days, amid growing economic woes, political instability, and a deteriorating law and order situation. This paper analyses the budget in a broader macroeconomic framework and examines the policy initiatives that could put the economy back on track and provide the much needed relief to the common man.

    Insights: 32 : India’s Nuclear Dilemma: To Drop the Deal or to Drop the Left

    S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 June, 2008
    The fate of the Indo-United States nuclear deal is on the brink. The 9th Meeting of India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its Left supporters, held in New Delhi on 25 June 2008, drew the parting line but ducked the final verdict. This was done in the interest of buying some more time to work out the least painful way of separation. After unusual hectic political activity for at least a week preceding the meeting, in a cold statement, the Convener of the Meeting and Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee, said, “The Committee completed its discussions on all aspects of the India-United States Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The next meeting of the Committee, to be convened in due course, will finalise its findings”.

    Insights: 31 : Higher Education in India – Ducking the Answers

    Bibek Debroy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 May, 2008
    In 2005, the World Bank published a report on India and the knowledge economy.1 The thrust of the World Bank report was on education’s role as a fundamental enabler of the knowledge economy and the knowledge economy’s requirement of a new set of skills and competencies. In a simple sense, a country’s per capita national income is nothing but a measure of the average productivity of its citizens.2 With ageing populations in developed countries, and even in countries like Russia and China, there has been talk of India’s demographic dividend.3 That the demographic dividend argument works, is known. For East Asia, several studies suggest that between 25 to 40 percent of the East Asian miracle was due to the demographic dividend.4 Other than East Asia, it has worked in Japan in the 1950s, China in the 1980s and Ireland in the 1980s and the 1990s.

    Insights: 30 : Of Agflation and Agriculture: Time to Fix the Structural Problems

    M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 5 May, 2008
    Agricultural commodity prices have reached nosebleed levels in recent months.1 The impact of the ongoing agflation across the world, especially on the low and fixed income groups, is so severe that the World Food Programme has described the phenomenon as a 'silent tsunami'.2 The current food shortage is also seen as the first truly global food crisis since World War II. The Asian Development Bank thinks that one billion people in Asia are seriously affected by surging global food prices.3 As there is a direct nexus between access to food and poverty, it is feared that soaring food prices will push more people under the poverty line and this could jeopardise the progress towards the millennium development goals. The World Bank believes that the current food crisis imperils 100 million people in poor countries.4 Nevertheless, the World Bank's explanation of extreme poverty (people who earns less than US$1 a day) underestimates the actual number of poor people in the world, as the sliding United States dollar and higher food and energy prices have made the definition somewhat obsolete. However, there are some winners of the current soft commodity boom too. Net food exporting countries have been enjoying improved terms of trade.

    Insights: 29 : Development Trends in Selected Indian States – Issues of Governance and Management*

    S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research at the ISAS 24 April, 2008
    The southern and western states in India are regarded as high growth and high growth potential areas. This paper examines the management of government finances and expenditure in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

    Insights: 28 : India: Towards a Knowledge Superpower? – A View from Outside

    Gopinath Pillai 24 April, 2008
    From the very dawn of history, whether it is for matters of the mind or material, India has always been a fertile land. The first references to astronomy are found in the Rig Veda which dates back to 2000 BC. Mathematics has its roots in the nearly 4,000 years old Vedic literature. Indians developed many important mathematical concepts, including the base-ten decimal system. India’s Panini is well-regarded as the founder of linguistics, and his Sanskrit grammar is still considered to be the most sophisticated of any language in the world. Even in manufacturing, India had an important position. According to the Yale historian, Paul Kennedy, India accounted for roughly 25 percent of global industrial output in the 1770s. India’s tangible and intangible assets had always attracted external worshippers and warriors alike.

    Insights: 27 : The Pakistan Federal Cabinet: More of the Same or Something New?

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 April, 2008
    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a federal, parliamentary democracy which exercises its authority within the limits imposed by Islamic injunctions. The Pakistan Constitution vests executive powers for the federation as a whole in the prime minister and his cabinet, but through a number of ordinances and amendments enacted during the dictatorships of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf, the president has been given extraordinary powers to dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve parliament in case he is convinced that the government is not functioning properly. It will be interesting to see if the newly-elected government will seek to change this situation in favour of a strong prime minister and make the presidency a titular office. The Pakistan Parliament is bicameral. It consists of an upper house, the Senate, elected by the provincial assemblies and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and a lower house, the National Assembly, elected directly by the citizens on the basis of universal adult franchise.

    Insights: 26 : South Asia’s Inflation Challenges

    Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 28 March, 2008
    Most South Asian economies are now faced with exorbitant price hikes in fuel and non-fuel commodities. The current hikes have exposed the vulnerability of the low and middle income groups and the government exchequers, particularly in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The point-to-point inflation in these three countries is now double-digit. India is relatively less vulnerable to the current inflationary shock. Nevertheless, of late, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) acknowledged that price spiral in the economy is artificially “suppressed” as higher international oil prices have not been passed on to domestic consumers. The inflation scenario in Nepal is likely to follow the price level in India, largely because the former’s domestic currency is pegged to that of the latter.


    Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow ; Mr Rajiv Sikri, Consultant ISAS ; Dr D. M Nachane ; Professor Partha Nath Mukherji 28 March, 2008
    Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked out his social and political philosophy in the 20th century although his long stay in South Africa began already in the end of the 19th century. He faced discrimination and racism in that British colony and later developed novel methods of challenging the abuse of power and authority. Among those methods the most famous is Satyagraha, or non-violent civil disobedience and resistance. It not only influenced the Indian freedom struggle but also struggles for national liberation and social emancipation in many other parts of the world.


    Insights: 24 : Pakistan: The Road Ahead

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS; Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow; Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 31 August, 2007
    This paper probes the direction in which the Pakistani polity can or will move in the immediate period at hand and in the next few years. We examine the challenges and options facing the state, the present government and the economy.

    Insights: 23 : Problems on the China Front: Can India be the Next Manufacturing Hub

    K. V. Ramaswamy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 August, 2007
    China's manufacturing reputation is in trouble. Recently, Mattel, the American toy company, is reported to have recalled more than 400,000 toy cars and 18 million toys worldwide. The China-made and -supplied toys had used lead-based paint and contained small magnets that could prove to be health hazardous and would have serious medical consequences. This was followed by the world famous British toy seller, Hamleys, taking off from its shelves two jewellery products imported from China containing potentially fatal levels of lead

    Insights: 22 : Election Prospects in Pakistan

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 July, 2007
    Elections are expected to be held in Pakistan towards the end of 2007 or early 2008. The current assemblies were elected in 2002. The principle is that the Election Commission should be given three months to organise the elections, which means that after October when the term of the current assemblies is completed new elections can be called anytime between November and January. The Pakistani electoral system is based on the first-past-the-post procedure as prevalent in Britain and India. Several parties take part in elections but the practice of elections and civilian governments is weakly developed in Pakistan. Therefore, it is not certain that elections will be held.

    Insights: 21 : Urban Policy Initiatives in the European Union, Beijing-Seoul-Tokyo Cooperation and ASEAN: Perspectives for SAARC Countries

    Indu Rayadurgam, Research Associate at the ISAS 9 July, 2007
    The world is urbanizing at par with economic openness and industrialization. In many developing nations, due to the reduction in the contribution of agriculture to the national income and the lack of a strong non-farm sector, the rural-urban migration is on a rise. Cities and towns are becoming major economic, employment generation and revenue earning centres. In many countries, employment generation is generally perceived to be higher in the urban areas and its surrounding localities. Developing countries have adopted many policies to tackle the growing needs for infrastructure (roads, railways, ports, airports among the many). But, with the booming infrastructural requirements and the necessity for efficient management of resources in urban areas, it is very hard for national public sector undertakings alone to be involved in planning and policy. Therefore, cooperation in the form of exchange of ideas and technical expertise between governments and cities will be beneficial, especially when the process of economic, defence and political cooperation between nations is progressing, during the past few decades.

    Insights: 20 : Reflections on Monetary Policy

    D. M. Nachane, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 July, 2007
    Among economic historians, it is conventional to view the collapse of the Bretton Woods arrangement in the early 1970s as marking a transition from a post World War II Golden Age (of low real interest rates, low levels of sovereign indebtedness, little speculative trading in global financial markets and a high degree of financial stability) to a Leaden Age (characterized by slow growth, high unemployment, severe business cycles and a growing incidence of financial crises). Without necessarily attaching to it any of the pejorative connotations intended by the originator of the term (Mrs. Robinson (1956), and her followers such as Foley (1986) and Pollin (1998)), nor claiming for the term a universal applicability across all countries, Leaden Age could still serve as a succinct and convenient phrase to capture the generally heightened uncertainty surrounding national policy making in the post Bretton Woods scenario.

    Insights: 19 : Regional Integration in South Asia: The Era of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement

    Aparna Shivpuri Singh, Research Associate at the ISAS 2 March, 2007
    South Asia accounts for 22 percent of the world's population, two percent of the world's gross national product and is home to about 40 percent of the world's poor. However, the region's seven countries contribute only about one percent to world trade. Combining this low level of economic development with political and ethnic disparities makes this region economically and politically very sensitive. With the ratification of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in March 2006 by all the member states, the process of liberalising trade and investment has been set in motion. It has been two decades since the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) came into being and even though the process of trade liberalisation has been slow, it has not died. This paper highlights the journey of South Asia from the SAARC to the South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement and now to the SAFTA and draws comparisons between the provisions. It also brings forth the issues that need to be addressed if the South Asian economies want to benefit from this free trade agreement (FTA). The paper argues that South Asia needs to re-look at some fundamental trade and political issues and give precedence to trade if it wants a well-implemented FTA encompassing substantial trade among the member states.

    Insights: 18 : Nepal’s Peace Process: Prospects and Hurdles

    Nishchal N. Pandey, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 January, 2007
    Nepal has been in the news from the past couple of years for all the wrong reasons. A country renowned for being the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the Mt. Everest and honest Gurkha soldiers has turned into a boxing ring of fighting politicians. The Maoist insurgency costing more than 13,000 lives since 1996 took a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, socio-political life, and economy. Physical infrastructure worth at least US$250 million was destroyed. More than 400,000 rural families were internally displaced while thousands crossed over to India. Tourism and garment industries that have been a mainstay of the economy for decades are today in shambles. Unemployment rate has soared forcing youngsters to go abroad for work. Those that can’t find foreign employment remain as potential recruits for the insurgency completing a vicious enclose of poverty, malgovernance and insurrection.



    Nishchal N. Pandey, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 December, 2006
    The condition of the 100,000 Bhutanese refugees currently stranded in the seven makeshift camps in eastern Nepal is getting precarious with each passing day. For the last 15 years, there have been little progress in the repatriation of these refugees of Nepalese origin as well efforts to improve the conditions in their camps, particularly relating to proper sanitation, drinking water, safety and in meeting basic daily needs. It is evident that the political instability in Nepal and the dilly-dallying tactics adopted by Thimpu have caused insurmountable trouble to the refugees. The Druk regime wants to deliberately buy time and wait for the refugees to forget about going back to southern Bhutan. Kathmandu, on the other hand, has been engrossed with its own internal troubles that the issue has remained on the backburner for a considerable length of time.


    Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 November, 2006
    The legacy of hostility and indifference that characterised Sino-Indian relations has been replaced with some degree of geniality and mutual engagement. This positive change has been catalysed by a confluence of strategic and economic factors since the 1990s and, as it appears from this recent visit by China’s President Hu Jintao to India, the leaders of both countries seem willing to take Sino-Indian relations a step further by capitalising on the opportunities offered by globalisation and the shifting sands of the 21st century’s geo-strategic landscape.


    Rajshree Jetly 1 October, 2006
    The Baluch movement in Pakistan, after a dormant period of almost two decades, has been reignited with renewed vigour and threatens to destabilise Pakistan and potentially cause problems with regional security and economic development in South Asia.


    Kripa Sridharan 7 March, 2006
    The visit reflects three important US aims:India needs to be strengthened as a strategic partner,It can be an important player in Asia, A greater access to India's market


    Dr S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research at the ISAS 23 January, 2006
    There is no agreement among economists either on analytical grounds or on the basis of empirical results whether financing government expenditure by incurring a fiscal deficit is good, bad, or neutral in terms of its real effects, particularly on investment and growth.

    Insights: 12 : Informational Development in Rural Areas: Some Evidence from Andhra Pradesh and Kerala

    Jayan Jose Thomas, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 January, 2006
    This chapter examines the factors associated with the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural areas, and in doing so it looks at the potential role that ICTs can play in the development of rural areas. Empirical support for the chapter is based on field studies conducted in July-August 2004 in two rural locations in two South Indian states-Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh and Malappuram in Kerala. Various projects and programmes to use ICTs for enhancing developmental opportunities are going on in both locations. A major conclusion of this chapter is that ICTs can play a potent role in rural development, but only if the basic obstacles to rural prosperity are removed through radical changes - through land reforms, revitalisation of rural credit, and greater state intervention in rural infrastructure, and primary education.


    Dr S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research at the ISAS 9 January, 2006
    The Draft Report of the Expert Committee on Integrated Energy Policy was put out by the Planning Commission in December 2005 for comments.1 The report examines the issues from the point of view of energy requirements and the supply options, and attempts to address issues of energy security.



    DS Rajan, Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in India and Raakhee Suryaprakash, Research Intern at the Observer Research Foundation in India 30 December, 2005
    The East Asian Summit (EAS) held at Kuala Lumpur on 14 December 2005 after a 15-year gestation period was an important event in the evolution of Asian relations. The former Malaysian Premier Dr Mahathir first mooted the idea in 1990. Sixteen world leaders from ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, representing half the world’s population attended the summit. The Russian President Vladimir Putin also addressed the summit after attending the first ASEAN-Russia meeting. Russia has been keen on becoming a part of the EAS.


    Jayan Jose Thomas,Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS and Indu Rayadurgam, Research Associate at the ISAS 5 December, 2005
    The liberalisation efforts by the Indian government have resulted in the emergence of numerous sectors, which offer great possibilities for India's development. One such recent sector is interactive media and animation, along with information and communication technologies (ICTs).


    Dr S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 October, 2005
    The most important sea-lane of communication (SLOC) in the Southeast Asian region is the Straits of Malacca, the main passage between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. It is 600 miles long and 300 miles wide on its western side. The length of the Singapore Straits, which connects Malacca with the South China Sea, is 75 miles, with an overall width of less than 12 miles. The Malacca and Singapore Straits provides the artery through which a significant proportion of global trade is conducted. Some 50,000 ship movements carrying as much as one quarter of the world's commerce and half the world's oil pass through these Straits each year.

    Insights: 07 : Examining the Business Landscape in India

    Aparna Shivpuri Singh, Research Associate at the ISAS and Mridul Batra, Graduate Student in Economics at NUS 19 September, 2005
    In recent years, considerable attention has been given to India. Countries have come to realise the potential that India has because of its investment climate, skilled work force and large market. The largest democracy in the world, India is home to 1.08 billion people (approximately 16.7% of the world population) and is projected to have 823 million people in the working age group by 2015.


    Jayan Jose Thomas 5 September, 2005
    This paper argues that the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) signed between India and Singapore appears to be part of a larger process of Asian integration.


    Rajshree Jetly 18 July, 2005
    Despite being respectively the largest and oldest democracies in the world, India and the United States have, at best, had a lukewarm relationship with several ups and downs in the past few decades. A confluence of strategic and economic factors since the 1990s has brought about a positive change in Indo-United States relations. The Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the United States builds on this platform of interlinked strategic and economic issues.


    Aparna Shivpuri, Research Assistant at the ISAS 16 April, 2005
    In May 2005, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, visited Singapore and several other Southeast Asian countries. The Singapore visit was to reciprocate a trip made by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, when he was Prime Minister in June 2004. Pakistan, like the other South Asian countries, wants to build close ties with the Southeast Asian region, in particular Singapore which, with its open economy, eagerness to invest in South Asia and its stance on terrorism, is an ideal ally to have in this part of the world.


    S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 April, 2005
    The expansion of trade has, under our conditions, to be regarded as ancillary to agriculture and industrial development rather than as an initiating impulse in itself. In fact, in view of the urgent needs for investment in basic development, diversion of investment on any large scale to trade must be viewed as a misdirection of resources.


    Aparna Shivpuri, Research Assistant at the ISAS 16 April, 2005
    The relationship between India and Pakistan goes back a long way and they share much more than just a common border. The relationship can be viewed as “stop-go”, where instances of activities and excitement are followed by a prolonged period of stalemate, and even the eruption of violence.


    Kripa Sridharan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, NUS, Associate of the ISAS 15 April, 2005
    From China’s point of view the visit was aimed at ‘promoting trust and widening cooperation’ between the two countries. The swing through the region was also aimed to establish the fact that South Asia falls within the ambit of China’s interests and influence despite India’s dominant position in the region. It was also meant to emphasise to India that bilateral ties with the regional states will continue to be important for Beijing even while it was expanding its ties with India.